Canada's food guide

Healthy cooking methods

The way a food is prepared matters for your health. There are many different healthy cooking methods.

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Choose healthier cooking methods

A healthy meal starts with healthy ingredients. However, the way these ingredients are prepared or cooked also matters when making a healthy meal.

Some methods of preparing and cooking can require lots of sodium, sugars or saturated fat. These include:

  • curing
  • deep-frying
  • caramelizing

Try one of these healthy preparation methods instead the next time you make food at home. You can also look for dishes cooked using these methods when you eat out.

Baking

Baking uses dry heat to cook foods slowly and evenly in an oven.

Baking is often used to cook:

  • breads
  • seafood
  • vegetables
  • lean meats or poultry

Healthy recipes that involve baking:

Broiling

Broiling uses very high heat for a short amount of time to cook food quickly and evenly. You can do this in the oven by putting the food on the top rack or by using a toaster oven.

Broiling is often used to cook:

  • fish
  • lean cuts of meat
  • some vegetables like mushrooms

Because the high heat cooks the food quickly, try slicing foods thinner for even cooking. Remember to cut off any excess fat before broiling.

Healthy recipes that involve broiling:

Grilling

Grilling is commonly done on a barbeque, but it can also be done on a griddle or grill pan. Use a hot grill to help prevent food from sticking. Using a lid will help cook your food quickly.

Grilling is often used to cook:

  • fruits like:
    • mangos
    • peaches
    • pineapple
  • vegetables like:
    • peppers
    • zucchini
    • eggplant
    • tomatoes
  • tofu or tempeh
  • fish or shellfish
  • lean cuts of meat or poultry

Grilling can be creative. Try cutting vegetables and fruits into slices or chunks, or even make kebabs.

Healthy recipes that involve grilling:

Poaching

Poaching simmers food in a pan of liquid like water or stock to cook food quickly.

Poaching is often used to cook:

  • eggs
  • poultry
  • some vegetables
  • some fruit, like pears
  • fish like salmon and white fish

Healthy recipes that involve poaching:

Roasting

Roasting is normally done in an oven and often requires the use of oil.

It is similar to baking, but starts at a high temperature to create a crisp surface on the food. The temperature is then lowered until the food is cooked.

The food is normally left uncovered when roasting.

Roasting is often used to cook:

  • vegetables, such as:
    • squash
    • carrots
    • zucchini
    • potatoes
    • sweet potatoes
  • lean meats or poultry

Try:

  • leaving the skin on your vegetables to get more fibre
  • using spices and herbs to flavour your food instead of relying on salt for flavour

Healthy recipes that involve roasting:

Microwaving

Microwaving heats the food by causing the water content of the food to move around quickly. This causes the food to heat up very quickly.

Microwaving can be used to:

  • cook
  • reheat
  • defrost

Pressure cooking

Pressure cooking uses steam that is sealed in an airtight pressure cooker to cook food. This cooks food very quickly.

Pressure cooking is often used to cook:

  • rice
  • stews
  • soups
  • stocks
  • bean dishes

Slow cooking

Slow cooking uses low heat to cook food over a long period of time.

Slow cookers allow you to assemble ingredients in the pot of the slow cooker. You can leave it to cook while you are doing other things.

Slow cookers are often used to cook:

  • stews
  • soups
  • casseroles

Healthy slow cooker recipes:

Stir-frying or sautéing

Stir-frying and sautéing involve cooking small or thin pieces of foods quickly. They involve frying foods with small amounts of oil, vegetable stock or water.

Stir-frying or sautéing is often used to cook:

  • fish
  • tofu
  • vegetables
  • lean meats or poultry

If you are using vegetables that take a while to cook, try adding them first or steaming them before they are added.

Remember that stir-frying and sautéing just need a small amount of oil. Also remember to choose a healthy fats, such as:

  • olive
  • canola
  • soybean
  • sunflower

Healthy recipes that you can stir-fry or sauté:

Steaming

Steaming is typically done in a steaming basket (one with holes) either on a stovetop or in a microwave. Heat the water to create steam. Place the foods over the steam and add a lid to capture the steam.

Steaming is often used to cook:

  • vegetables like:
    • carrots
    • broccoli
    • asparagus
    • cauliflower
  • fish and shellfish like mussels

No-cook

Not all foods need to be cooked to make a meal. You can make healthy meals by combining different foods.

No-cook meals are often used to prepare:

  • wraps
  • salads
  • cold soups
  • sandwiches
  • tofu summer salad rolls
  • snack plates that can include:
    • nuts and seeds
    • whole grain bread
    • vegetable sticks and avocado slices

Try different combinations of no-cook foods to make delicious meals and snacks.

Healthy recipes that you don’t need to cook:

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Save time
  • Improve food skills
  • Make easy dinners

Further reading

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