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Healthy Eating Basics: Cooking


Knowing a few simple cooking methods can help with healthy eating. And trying the methods for yourself at home can help you discover more foods that you may really like. Did you know that changing the cooking method can give food a completely different flavour and texture? Use these tips for cooking basics and to find your favourite way to cook.

Sauté for fast flavour.

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slide 1 of 5, Sauté for fast flavour.,

Sautéing may sound fancy, but it just means you use a hot pan and oil to cook food quickly.

  • How to sauté. Heat a large pan with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of vegetable oil. To check if the pan is hot enough, add a piece of chopped food. Does it sizzle immediately? This is a sure sign that your pan is hot and ready. Add your food as a single layer in the pan. Stir every couple minutes so that all the pieces brown on all sides.
  • What to sauté. Try it for vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. Protein foods— like eggs, chopped chicken, and tofu—work well too.

Roast for deep flavour and colour.

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slide 2 of 5, Roast for deep flavour and colour.,

Make sure you cook meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs all the way through for food safety. Go to this link to check that foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Food Safety: Cooking

  • How to roast. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F) . Put your food in a bowl. Drizzle it with vegetable oil, and stir until everything is coated. Spread the food out onto a baking sheet so that it's all in one layer with space between each piece. Sprinkle with any herbs and spices you like. Put the baking sheet on the middle rack of the hot oven. Check it after 15 minutes, and stir. Add more time until the food is cooked through, golden brown, and maybe even a little crispy on the edges.
  • What to roast. Try vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and butternut squash. Proteins—like chicken, beef, tofu, and tempeh—do well with roasting too.

Steam to keep food moist.

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slide 3 of 5, Steam to keep food moist.,

Steaming helps to keep nutrients in the food. There are two different ways to steam food. See below. Serve steamed vegetables as is, or add seasonings after cooking. Add flavour by trying chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, or a squeeze of lemon juice for veggies and a dusting of cinnamon for fruits.

    There are 2 different ways to steam food:
    • How to steam on the stove. In a pot, add three to five centimetres (one to two inches) of water. Set a steamer basket inside. Keep enough water in the pot so it doesn't dry out. Cover the pot with the steamer basket inside, and bring the water to a boil. Add food to the steamer basket. Cover the pot, and cook until your food is fork tender and the veggies are still bright in colour. Steaming on the stove top can take 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and texture of your food.
    • How to steam in the microwave. Put food in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons (15 to 45 mL) of water, and cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high starting with 1 minute. Steaming in the microwave can take 1 to 10 minutes, depending on the size and texture of your food and the power of your microwave.
    • What to steam. Options include vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, and peas. Fish can be steamed until it flakes apart with a fork. Or try it with fruits like apples and pears.

Cook foods the right amount of time.

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slide 4 of 5, Avoid overcooking.,

Cooking changes the colour and texture of your food. Cook foods to the amount of doneness and texture that is safe and right for you. It can help to keep these tips in mind.

  • Set a timer. It can be easy to lose track of time, especially if you're doing more than one thing in the kitchen. Using a timer can help you stay on track. Set it for about 5 minutes before you think your food will be done. You can always check your food and add more time if needed.
  • Find a recipe. Recipes can help you understand cooking times for different foods. Find recipes online, or check out a cookbook from the library.

Remember: Raw works too.

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slide 5 of 5, Remember: Raw works too.,

You can also serve many vegetables and fruits raw. You can chop and serve, or bite right in. Try it with carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, and turnips. Or try apples, bananas, oranges, mangoes, pears, and strawberries. You can also try cutting your vegetables and fruit into different shapes. Try slicing carrots and cucumbers into spears, bell peppers into rings, and oranges into half circles.


Adaptation Date: 3/1/2022

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.