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Healthy Cooking Leads to a Healthier Diet

June 2014

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Good food is one of life's great pleasures. And for most Americans, meals are at the heart of family life and celebrations. Would you like to make satisfying and healthy meals that help protect you, your family, and friends from heart disease and other health problems? Of course you would.

So move away from calorie-laden, fatty and salty convenience and highly processed foods. Experiment with quick and healthy cooking techniques, such as baking, grilling, and sautéing. Learn important food safety tips, recipe makeovers, and more. Then enjoy knowing that your new healthy cooking skills are helping to reduce your family's risk of health problems. Every small step toward a healthier diet makes a big difference.

If you're looking for ways to make meals healthier, yet still enticing, plan healthy menus by browsing healthy recipes online and in cook books. Try and to get started. To prepare healthy menus, have healthy ingredients on hand. Shopping strategies should focus on fresh and unprocessed foods. That means spending more time in the produce section, where you can stock up on fruits and vegetables. Keep an eye out, too, for whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

Do you want to adopt a healthy diet but aren't sure where to start? As you consider the multitude of healthy diets in magazines and cookbooks, make sure to look for ones that:

  • Include a variety of foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein including beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats
  • Provide guidelines for how much food to choose from each group
  • Include foods you can find in your local grocery store — rather than specialty or gourmet store items
  • Fit your tastes, lifestyle, and budget

Another key shopping strategy — don't linger in the snack food and candy aisles. Also, be sure to check out farmers markets during the growing season to see what local produce is available.

Be sure to consider your health risks. For example, do you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure? If so, be sure to follow a diet that's low in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.

For personalized advice, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian/nutritionist RDN.