Sauteing quickly cooks relatively small or thin pieces of food. If you choose a good-quality nonstick pan, you can cook food without using fat. Depending on the recipe, use low-sodium broth, cooking spray or water in place of oil.
Searing quickly browns the surface of food at a high temperature, locking in flavor and adding a crusty texture to meats and other proteins. Heat a pan on high heat and use a small amount of oil for a golden crust. Finish cooking with another cooking method such as braising or roasting.
One of the simplest cooking techniques is steaming food in a perforated basket suspended above simmering liquid. If you use a flavorful liquid or add seasonings to the water, you'll flavor the food as it cooks.
A traditional Asian method, stir-frying quickly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of food while they're rapidly stirred in a wok or large nonstick frying pan. You need only a small amount of oil or cooking spray for this cooking method.
New ways to flavor foods
Creating meals with herbs, spices and other natural flavorings is one of the best ways to add color, taste and aroma to foods without adding salt or fat. Healthy flavor boosts include:
March 08, 2017
- Fresh herbs. Choose herbs that look bright and aren't wilted, and add them toward the end of cooking.
- Dried herbs. Add pinches of dried herbs in the earlier stages of cooking. But avoid prepackaged seasoning mixes because they often contain a lot of salt.
- Dried mustard. Used sparingly, dried mustard adds a zesty flavor while cooking.
- Vinegar or citrus juices. Add them at the last moment. Vinegar is great on vegetables, and citrus works well on fruit such as melons.
- Marinades. Try a low-fat marinade for foods that you broil, grill or roast. To make your own marinade, use 1 part oil to 2 parts vinegar or citrus juice, and add herbs and spices as desired.
- Fresh hot peppers. Remove the membranes and seeds first, and then finely chop the peppers. A small amount goes a long way.
- Dried vegetables and fruits. Some vegetables and fruits — such as mushrooms, tomatoes, chilies, cherries, cranberries and currants — have a more intense flavor when dried than when fresh. Add them when you want a burst of flavor.
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.