10 Tips For Healthy Vegetarian Cooking
If not prepared the right way veggie diets can lack several nutrients and be filled with unhealthy fats and refined carbs. However, cooking a healthy vegetarian meal need not mean loads of exotic ingredients busting your budget or spending hours on end tied to the stove. With just a little pre-planning and pantry management you can easily have a balanced and healthy meal sans the meat. Here is a list of 10 tricks that will make healthy vegetarian cooking seem like a cakewalk…
Popularly known as the “Other Sugar”, refined flours can easily ruin the calorie index of your meal. White flour ingredients in most recipes can be directly substituted with whole wheat or barley flour. In certain recipes, like that of cakes and bread you can add a vegetarian flour softener to get the same texture and flavor. Also, do not forget the white rice, more polished the rice is, less nutrients it has. Opt for brown, red, or wild rice for better taste, flavor, and health.
2. Include at least one protein rich food in the meal
Unlike the popular notion, vegetarian diet need not be low in protein. Dairy products offer enough proteins in the diet. In case you are a vegan then try including peas, sprouts, lentils, beans, and soy to your food to enhance the protein content.
3. Use smart food combinations to enhance protein content of a vegan meal
The bioavailability of vegan proteins is much lower than animal proteins. However, this can be improved by cooking and/or serving grains and peas or lentils together. Both whole grains and pulses lack a few essential amino acids. However, when combined, they tend to compensate the deficiency, thus enhancing the proteins bioavailability of the meal. Hence, a bowl of black beans and rice salad is healthier than simple sprouts salad.
4. Include at least one leafy vegetable
Leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, fenugreek leaves etc. are a rich source of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium along with several B vitamins. Dark green leafy vegetables are often known as the nutrient storehouse. Apart from the minerals and vitamins they are enriched with many phytonutrients that protect the cells from free radical damage. Salads need not be the only dish that includes leaves; you can also add them to casseroles, pastas, soups, and stews.
5. Opt for simple salad dressings
Salads are an integral part of any vegetarian meal; they are low in calorie, rich in fibers, and hydrate the body. However, a heavy cream based or sugar enriched dressing can tip you off the balance easily. Even the low fat vegan or vegetarian dressings available in the stores usually substitute the fat with sugar and filled with loads of additives. Instead a simple vinaigrette dressing is not only easy to make, but also a healthier option.
6. Avoid refined sugars
Sugar is the silent killer of the present generation. No other food is as addictive and as injurious to health as the white refined sugar. It is singularly responsible for several lifestyle diseases and purported to worsen hyperactivity in children. Try to avoid the white sugar as much as possible. One can easily substitute refined sugar with healthier sweeteners like date syrup, molasses, and honey in most recipes.
7. Steam veggies to preserve nutrition
Steaming enhances the flavor and texture of the vegetables. Also, steaming helps retain more nutrients in the food than any other form of cooking. Steamed foods like carrot fingers, peas, corn, and beans taste good with just dash of salt and pepper and don’t need any butter or other heavy fats on the side.
8. Prefer baking over frying
A vegetarian meal is healthy and low in calories only if you keep a check on the fat usage. Frying not only increases the calorie value of the meal, but also destroys and leaches out several heat labile nutrients from the food. Baking instead of frying reduces the fat content in the meal and prevents the leaching of nutrients. Food if cooked in a multi-mode microwave oven further protects the nutrients from destruction.
9. Less cooked the better
The beauty of vegetarian cooking lies in retaining the freshness of the ingredients. Simple cooking techniques like steaming, par boiling, and stir frying add more flavor to the meal and help to retain the nutrients of the food.
10. Be punctual
Wondering what punctuality has to do with healthy cooking? Well, when you stick to a proper schedule with your cooking and cook on time you will rarely need to reheat the food. Reheating destroys the nutrients and at times generates free radicals in the food. Hence, see to it that you do not prepare food too ahead of time. If that is not possible, then make all preparations and finish the final cooking just before serving. Though, not absolutely foolproof this is better than heating the food over and again.
Last but not the least; remember to enjoy cooking the meal. Healthy vegetarian cooking is no rocket science, if you follow your heart, you are sure to get things right.