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Healthy Cooking Methods1

Preparation and cooking methods make a big difference in determining the nutritional value of a recipe. Use the following easy cooking methods to make everyday dishes healthier.


Baking can be used for almost any type of food including meat, fruits and vegetables, mixed dishes (i.e. casseroles) and baked goods such as bread or pies. Place the food in a dish, either covered or uncovered, and allow the hot air from the oven to cook it.


Cooking slowly in a covered container with a small amount of liquid or water. The cooking liquid may be used for a sauce.2


Cooking meats, poultry, seafood or vegetables by placing on a broiler rack in oven below the heat, allowing fat to drip away into a container below.


Cooking foods over direct heat on a grill, griddle or pan. Fat can be removed as it accumulates.


Microwaving can be a fast and easy way to cook food if it is done correctly. Cover the food with a lid or plastic wrap. Loosen the lid or wrap so that steam can escape. Stir or rotate the food midway through cook time so that it is evenly cooked.3


Cooking delicate foods like eggs or fish either partially or completely in liquid (such as water or broth) at temperature between 140° - 180° F.


Cooking meat, poultry and seafood larger than single portions by dry heat, uncovered in an oven. It is a great way to use marinades, herbs and spices.


Sautéing is a good method for vegetables that are tender and high in moisture such as mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini. The ingredients are cooked in a small amount of oil or margarine at a very high heat until tender.


A great, healthy way to cook vegetables that produces little to no loss in flavor or moisture. Cut into small, even-size pieces. Fill a pot or pan with 1-2 inches of water or broth, set to medium-high heat, and wait until liquid begins to produce steam. Add the vegetables, cover and let the steam surround and cook the vegetables. Generally, vegetables are done steaming when they become slightly soft (yet still crunchy) and vibrant in color. To enhance taste, seasoning (e.g., herbs, chicken or vegetable stock) can be added to the water.

Stir Frying

Cooking quickly over very high heat in a wok or skillet. Cut all ingredients the same size so that they cook evenly. With a small amount of vegetable or canola oil, keep the food in constant motion by stirring and tossing. Great for large or small batches of meat, seafood and/or vegetable (fresh, frozen or pre-cooked) combinations.

  1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service. (June 2009). USDA Recipes for Child Care.
  2. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service. Accessed August 12, 2010. Cooking A World of New Tastes.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Accessed August 12, 2010. Cooking Safely in the Microwave Oven. Retrieved from