A trend toward health and fitness is on an upswing, and one important component is a nutritious diet that provides needed vitamins and minerals, is satisfying and naturally boosts energy throughout the day. What is it that makes a recipe healthy? Here are some questions to ponder when it comes to deciding whether a recipe is healthful or hurtful.
What type of cooking method is used? Steer clear of recipes that call for frying or deep frying, and focus on the following methods instead. The healthiest cooking method is steaming, where food is placed in a perforated container and suspended above boiling water. Besides a light coating of cook spray, baking and roasting are healthy and typically do not require adding extra fat to a dish, and stir-frying and sautéing can be accomplished with a minimal amount of healthy oil. Grilling and broiling are healthy methods because they allow fat to drip away from food, and braising and poaching involve gently simmering an ingredient in liquid until cooked.
What is the calorie count in the recipe? Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain the weight you have, it is important to understand how many calories your body requires and find recipes that correspond to this amount. To determine the energy needed in calories to maintain your current weight, multiply your weight in pounds by 12. For a one pound per week weight loss, cut this amount by 500 calories per day. For a two pound per week loss, reduce the amount by 1000 calories per day. Note: It has been shown that two pounds per week is a healthy weight loss that has the best potential to be sustained.
Is the recipe made with nutritious ingredients? The healthiest ingredients include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and poultry, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados. Note: fats contain two times more calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates, so it is important to keep portion sizes under control.
Unhealthy ingredients include sugar, sodium, white flour, processed foods and saturated and trans-fats. Trans-fatty acids occur naturally in meat and dairy products but can be artificially made (by hydrogenating oils) to boost the shelf life of some products. High trans-fat consumption has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers. Read labels, and avoid any products containing partially hydrogenated oils. In place of table salt, use herbs and spices to season recipes, and if needed, try all-natural sea salt.
Here are some guidelines based on advice from the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic for a typical 2000 calorie-per-day diet. Remember to adjust values to your daily calories and divide by the number of meals you are eating per day to arrive at approximate amounts for each recipe.
- Dietary cholesterol should not exceed 300 mg per day.
- To keep full and satisfied, an individual should strive for at least 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Proteins should be limited to 175 grams or less per day, total carbohydrates should not exceed 300 grams, and fats should be limited to 65 grams or less per day.
- A healthy diet should contain at least 3,500 mg of potassium daily, but sodium intake should not exceed 2,400 mg per day (those on a low-sodium diet should limit each recipe serving to 140 mg or less).
- Limit sugars to 6 to 10 percent of total daily calories.
- For heart-healthy recipes use 3 grams or less total fat (with 1 gram or less saturated fat), 20 mg or less cholesterol, and 480 mg or less sodium per serving.