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“How would you like that cooked?”
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by Alicia Kroat RD, LDN, Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD, and Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD

The term "home cooked” touches a special spot for many of us. It engenders images of family and friends getting and enjoying great food. Because the cook (i.e., you) is in charge, there are many things you can do in the kitchen to prepare healthy, delicious foods. Too much salt and saturated fat are targets to reduce in preparing home cooked meals. There are many ways to do this. First, consider the cooking method, and next find just the right seasonings to create foods that are delectably flavored. Basic cooking techniques and recommended heart health alternatives are described below. Many of these feature vegetables which can be nutritious, very satisfying and enhance the flavor profile of many foods without using sodium and/or saturated fat for flavor.

To learn more about how to reduce fat and sodium, check out these Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips from the American Heart Association. Below you'll find a handy primer on different cooking techniques and links to delicious and heart-healthy recipes for each technique.

BAKING – Baking in the oven exposes food to dry heat. Bake lean meat, seafood, poultry, fruits, and vegetables without added fat. Add water or a low-sodium, low-fat liquid to prevent the food from drying out. Recipe: Salmon with Lemon and Dill

BRAISING – Braising is a two-step process.  First, the food is browned in a pan on the stove and then cooked (covered) in liquid. Use water or low-sodium broths. Recipe: Braised Mushrooms

BROILING – Broiling is a direct heat cooking method.  A rack is often used to allow the fat to drip away from fatty foods. Recipe: Broiled Eggplant

GRILLING – Like broiling, grilling is a direct heat cooking method that uses a rack to allow fat to drip away from the food.  Grill meats at low temperatures, and cook as far away from the heat source as possible to prevent charring.  Recipe: Pineapple Grilled Pork Chops

HERBS & SPICES – Use herbs and spices whenever possible to minimize the addition of sodium and extra fat for flavoring. Recipe: Alicia’s Mediterranean Salad

MICROWAVE – Uses electromagnetic radiation to cook foods. Foods should be spaced evenly for consistent cooking. Cover foods to trap water to enhance even cooking. For more information on microwave ovens, please visit the FDA website. Recipe: Sweet Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad

POACHING – Poaching involves simmering ingredients in water or other low sodium liquid until cooked. Recipe: Poached Pears

ROASTING – Roasting, like baking, uses dry heat, but at a much higher temperature. Use a rack to allow fat to drip away from the food. To prevent the food from drying out, baste with wine, low sodium tomato juice, or lemon juice. Recipe: Roasted Red Peppers

SAUTÉING – Sautéing is good for small, thin foods such as thinly sliced vegetables and meats. Use nonstick pans to control the addition of liquid vegetable oils.  Along with a little vegetable oil, use cooking spray, low-sodium broth, wine, or other liquids as needed. Recipe: Sauteéd Asparagus with Dijon Vinaigrette

STEAMING – Steaming uses a perforated basket that sits above boiling water. Add low-sodium seasonings to boiling water to flavor product. Recipe: Steamed Cabbage

STIR-FRYING – Ideal for quickly cooking foods. This method may require cooking spray or small amount of oil. Recommendations for using low heat are similar to grilling. Recipe: Zucchini and Squash Stir-Fry



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