What are healthy methods of cooking vegetables?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Healthy methods of cooking are those that do not require adding fat and are quick cooking methods. Cooking vegetables by steaming in a pot or in the microwave; grilling in a grill basket; boiling, or baking are all fat free methods of cooking vegetables. Stir frying with a small amount of oil is yet another healthy way to cook vegetables. These methods also allow nutrients to stay in the food instead of leaching out into the water if you were to cook vegetables in a large pot of water for several hours.

Deborah Beauvais
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Steaming and stir frying are the two healthiest ways to prepare foods especially vegetables.

Steaming is considered the healthy cooking method for vegetables because it’s does not allow water to come into actual contact with vegetables. Also, hot steam locks nutrients in and this way vegetables retain their vitamin and mineral content. As an example: steamed broccoli retains 80 perfect of its vitamin C and boiled broccoli retains only 30 percent of vitamin C because it’s transferred into water.

Stir-frying is also considered a healthy cooking method because vegetables are cooked without water, in small amounts of oil for only a few minutes on high heat. Vegetables and meats should be sliced thin in order to heat fast. Because it’s fast, stir-frying sears the outside of what’s being cooked, locking nutrients inside.

Many vitamins and other valuable nutrients will leach into water when food is cooked in large amounts of water. So if you want to preserve nutrient loss in your foods the best cooking methods will be where a minimum amount of water is used or no water is used.

Remember, if your vegetables or meat were cooked in water do not throw that water away because it is rich in nutrients, use it for gravy or soup or something else.

Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and nutrients, but sometimes the way you prepare vegetables can add fat and calories and end up "outweighing" those healthy benefits. Try following these lean tips for preparing vegetables:

  • Saute vegetables with a little liquid, not oil. Cook them in a little defatted broth, juice, wine or water in a covered, nonstick pan. This is especially great for onions and mushrooms.
  • Cook vegetables by steaming, stir-frying (in nonstick wok or skillet), simmering or microwaving. If you enjoy the crispiness of French fries and onion rings, oven-bake them instead of frying them.
  • Puree or mash potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables like cauliflower, with milk, reduced-sodium chicken broth or the liquid left from cooking them. Go easy on butter or margarine. Boost the flavor and nutrients by blending in some shredded carrots or zucchini.
  • For the flavor of butter on vegetables, add a smaller amount just before serving because cooking dilutes the flavor of butter, and you will need less if you add it last. As another just-before-serving option, try a butter-flavored spray or powder.
  • Sprinkle some Parmesan or Romano cheese on vegetables. It adds a lot of flavor but not much fat.
  • Roast or grill vegetables like sliced eggplant, bell peppers or sliced zucchini. Lightly coat them with vegetable oil spray and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.