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Healthy Cooking Tricks

How learning to cook can help you resolve your issues with food.

Learn healthy cooking tricks -- and resolve your food issues, too continued...

There are more reasons than just a reality check.

"Cooking helps food matter," Koenig says.

Many of us are disconnected from food because we're disconnected from our bodies. Cooking helps us tune in to how food smells and looks (real food - not its fake, processed equivalent), as well as to the whole process of feeding ourselves; a process in which food is energy and nourishment--not the enemy. If your biggest food issue is speed eating (which often leads to overeating), cooking can help you slow you down and connect with your senses, she says. Tasting and smelling food as it cooks encourages you to do the same as you eat. You're also more motivated to slow down and really enjoy a meal after working hard to make it.

Food and cooking have emotional associations, says Koenig, and paying attention to how you feel as you cook you get in touch with feelings you have about the past that relate to food. Were you often urged to finish your dinner because a parent worked so hard to make it for you? Or was your childhood spent eating frozen dinners and fending for yourself? The process of cooking can help you understand why you feel the way you do about food.

Ready to get started? Here are 4 healthy cooking tricks that can help you be just as comfortable in the kitchen as you are on the couch.

Healthy Cooking Tip #1: Stock your kitchen.

Healthy cooking starts with filling your cupboards. Keep these basics on hand, and you'll be able to whip up delicious meals in less than the time it takes for pizza to be delivered.

Basic healthy cooking tools:

  • good set of pots and pans
  • vegetable steamer/rice cooker
  • soup pot
  • food processor
  • grill
  • crock pot
  • good utensils

Basic healthy cooking ingredients:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables (just an amount you'll be able to use before spoilage)
  • frozen vegetables (They're fairly equal to fresh veggies in terms of vitamin levels, says Lola O'Rourke,  a Seattle-based dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.)
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • low-fat cuts of meat such as chicken breast or pork tenderloin (both fresh and frozen)
  • rice (brown, red, black and mixed rice varieties)
  • pasta (preferably whole grain)
  • whole grain bread and/or pita
  • beans (pinto, black, white, etc., both dried and canned)
  • canned chopped tomatoes
  • salsa (fresh, if available)
  • vegetable or chicken stock
  • garlic
  • onion
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • herbs and spices (fresh, if possible)

Healthy Cooking Tip #2: Plan ahead.

Simplify dinnertime prep by making as much as possible ahead of time, O'Rourke suggests. Make double or triple the amount the recipe calls for, and freeze the extra for future use. (Be sure to label and date each item). Minestrone soup is a great example of something that freezes well and thaws into an instant healthy meal, says Carol Hildebrand, co-author, with her brother Bob Hildebrand, executive chef at The Three Stallions Inn in Randolph, Vermont, of 500 3-Ingredient Recipes, 500 5-Ingredient Desserts and 3-Ingredient Slow Cooker Comfort Foods.

For example:

  • Clean and chop vegetables.
  • Peel and chop potatoes and store in cold water in the fridge.
  • Cut chicken breast into strips or bite-sized pieces for stir fry.
  • Make vegetable or chicken stock to use as a base for soup.
  • Prepare a basic marinara sauce for use over pasta or with polenta.
  • Cook a big batch of beans for minestrone, chili or beans and rice.
  • Cut up fruit for quick snacks. (According to research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, it's just as nutritious as fruit cut directly before eating.)

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