Healthy-cooking techniques: Boost flavor and cut calories
Healthy-cooking techniques capture the flavor and nutrients of food without extra fat or salt.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Healthy cooking doesn't mean that you have to become a gourmet chef or invest in expensive cookware. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare food in healthy ways.
By using healthy-cooking techniques, you can cut saturated fats. Consider, for instance, that many of the fats used for frying — such as butter and lard — are high in saturated fats.
Adults should limit calories from saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 200 calories from saturated fat — about 22 grams of saturated fat — a day. By switching to roasting, you not only eliminate added fat but also allow any fat in the food to drip away.
The healthy-cooking methods described here best capture the flavor and retain the nutrients in foods without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt. Use them often to prepare your favorite dishes.
Besides breads and desserts, you can bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, vegetables and fruits. For baking, place food in a pan or dish, covered or uncovered. Baking generally doesn't require that you add fat to the food.
Braising involves browning the ingredient first in a pan on top of the stove, and then slowly cooking it partially covered with a small quantity of liquid, such as water or broth. In some recipes, the cooking liquid is used afterward to form a flavorful, nutrient-rich sauce.
Broiling and grilling
Broiling and grilling expose food to direct heat. Both methods allow fat to drip away from the food.
To grill outdoors, place the food on a grill rack above a bed of charcoal embers or gas-heated rocks. If you have an indoor grill, follow the manufacturer's directions. For smaller items, such as chopped vegetables, use foil or a long-handled grill basket to prevent pieces from slipping through the rack.
To broil, place food on a broiler rack below a heat element.
To poach foods, gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid, such as broth or wine, until they're cooked through and tender. The food retains its shape during cooking. For stove-top poaching, choose a covered pan that best fits the size and shape of the food so that you can use a minimal amount of liquid.
Like baking, but typically at higher temperatures, roasting uses an oven's dry heat to cook the food. You can roast foods on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan.
For poultry, seafood and meat, place a rack inside the roasting pan so that the fat in the food can drip away during cooking. To maintain moisture, cook foods until they reach a safe internal temperature but don't overcook them.
March 08, 2017
See more In-depth
- Hensrud DD, et al. Making meals easier. In: The Mayo Clinic Diet. 2nd ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
- Healthy cooking and snacking. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/eat-right/healthy-cooking.htm. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Eating well: Even when you're in a hurry. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Zeratsky K (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 8, 2016.
- Food preparation glossary. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov/glos.aspx. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.
- Healthier preparation methods for cooking. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Healthier-Preparation-Methods-for-Cooking_UCM_301484_Article.jsp#. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.