Healthy Eating: Cooking Tips for Vegetables

Mom knew what she was talking about when she told you to eat your veggies. They’re chock-full of vitamins, minerals , and fiber. To preserve as many nutrients as possible, along with flavor and color, follow these cooking tips:

  1. Clean vegetables well with a brush, but don’t peel away edible skin. Many vitamins and minerals are found in the skin or just below it.
  2. Cut up vegetables, if necessary, but use larger pieces so less surface area is exposed. This reduces the nutrient loss while cooking.
  3. Cook with little or no liquid, since some vitamins dissolve in water. For the same reason, avoid soaking vegetables as you wash them.
  4. Keep cooking times as short as possible, until the vegetables are just tender-crisp, since some vitamins are destroyed rapidly by heat.
  5. Cover the vegetables while you cook them. This speeds up the cooking time and helps retain nutrients that would be lost in steam.
  6. Save the liquid in which vegetables were cooked, since some nutrients are left behind in it. Use the liquid for sauces, stews and soups.
  7. Eat vegetables raw rather than cooking them. This is the ultimate way to preserve the most nutrients, flavor, color and crispy texture.

Here are some healthy healthy cooking methods for vegetables:

Braising

Diet for diabetic 300x187 Healthy Eating: Cooking Tips for Vegetables

Healthy Eating: Cooking Tips for Vegetables

This slow-cooking method is ideal for vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, cabbages, and brussels sprouts, which can absorb the flavorful liquid.

  1. Put the vegetables in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Season as desired with salt, salt-free seasoning mix, spices or herbs.
  3. Add a small amount (2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup) of low-fat liquid, such as water, juice or low-fat broth.
  4. Cover and simmer on low heat on the stovetop or in the oven (300 to 325 degrees F) until fork tender.

Grilling
Grilling is appropriate for a wide range of vegetables, including sliced eggplant, bell pepper chunks, sliced zucchini, tomato wedges, mushroom caps and onion wedges. The vegetables are usually halved or sliced to speed up the cooking time. The cut surfaces should be coated with a little oil to protect against drying and promote browning.

  1. Coat the vegetables lightly with vegetable oil, using a spray or brush. Skewers may be used.
  2. Place the vegetables on a grill directly over the coals.
  3. Grill until tender-crisp.
  4. Season as desired with salt, salt-free seasoning mix, spices or herbs.

Microwaving
Microwaving is suitable for foods with a high-water content, such as most vegetables, including greens, and fruits. Foods cooked in a microwave oven have a steamed quality. Microwave cooking is an excellent way to preserve nutrients, flavor and color. Speed is another big plus. Sweet corn cooks in seconds, and artichokes in minutes. Peeling tomatoes or peaches is also a snap after they’ve been zapped in a microwave.

  1. Place the vegetables in a microwave-safe dish.
  2. Add a small amount of low-fat liquid, such as juice or low-fat broth, if desired.
  3. For vegetables with skin and cooked whole, pierce the skin.
  4. Cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap, leaving one corner open to vent steam.
  5. Place the dish on a rotating turntable for the most even cooking.
  6. Stop the oven and sample the vegetables as soon as you can smell them, even if the recipe suggests a longer cooking time.
  7. Microwave to the desired tenderness.

Roasting
Roasting vegetables with no added liquid helps to save nutrients and preserve flavor. For any vegetable roasted whole, pierce the skin in several places to keep it from exploding from pent-up steam. Some vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash, come with their own protective skin. Others must be protected from drying out, either by brushing them lightly with oil or roasting them at low temperatures.

  1. Preheat the oven to the desired temperature.
  2. Season as desired with salt, salt-free seasoning mix, spices or herbs.
  3. Place the vegetables, either whole or cut-up, in a roasting pan. Do not cover and do not add water.
  4. Brush cut-up vegetables lightly with oil if they will be cooked at a temperature above 325 degrees F.
  5. Roast until tender-crisp.

Sautéing
This method works best for vegetables cut to a uniform thickness and size. Onion and mushrooms are perfect for sautéing, but so are other vegetables. Do not overcrowd the pan, since unwanted steam forms if there isn’t enough space between the food pieces.

  1. Preheat a small amount of vegetable oil or margarine in an open skillet. The oil should be hot enough to sear the food right away.
  2. Season the oil as desired with spices or herbs.
  3. Add the vegetables, and stir constantly to keep the food from sticking to the pan.
  4. Cook to desired tenderness.

Steaming
Steaming is one of the gentlest ways to cook, and lets vegetables retain more natural nutrients, taste and color. Water is the most common steaming liquid, but using wine, juice or herb-laced water is an easy way to infuse the food with extra flavor. An electric steamer or a bamboo steamer that fits inside a wok also can be used.

  1. Fill a pot with about one inch of water, and bring to a boil.
  2. Put the vegetables in a steamer basket over the water, and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Reduce the heat, and simmer at just below the boiling point. Make sure the water level does not rise to reach the basket. Hint: Put a couple of marbles in the bottom of the pot. As long as the water is simmering, they will make a racket. Silence means the pot may have boiled dry.
  4. Cook just a couple of minutes, until the vegetables are tender-crisp.

Stir-Frying
This Asian version of sautéing helps preserve the flavor, color and crisp texture of vegetables. The vegetables are often combined with meat, poultry or seafood. You need to use an oil that doesn’t smoke at high temperatures, such as peanut oil. Other oils can release undesirable chemicals when they smoke, and may not cook properly.

  1. Cut the vegetables into thin, uniform slices, strips or pieces.
  2. Preheat a small amount of peanut oil in a wok or large skillet.
  3. Add the vegetables with the longest cooking time, and stir constantly. As these vegetables just start to get tender, push them up on the side of the wok, which does not get as hot as the base.
  4. Add the vegetables with a shorter cooking time, and stir constantly.
  5. Cook until tender-crisp.
  6. Remove vegetables, and stir-fry meat if desired. Combine cooked vegetables and meat.

Wrap Cooking
Wrapping food in heavy foil or parchment and then cooking is really a type of steam cooking.

  1. Position sliced or halved vegetables on heavy foil, shiny side in, or parchment.
  2. Add onions, spices or herbs, if desired.
  3. Wrap it all up into a neat package.
  4. Cook the parchment-wrapped vegetables in the oven or, if using foil, in either the oven or on the grill.
  5. Allow extra time for cooking, or turn up the heat and cook for the usual time.
  6. Cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp.
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