Everything that you have in the kitchen [not just the food] directly concerns your health. So having the right tools is important. Here are a few basic tools that every kitchen must have; they are light on the wallet, and good for your health.
Steamers can be as simple as two-compartment pots: the bottom pot to hold water that boils and the top colander-like pot with a lid to hold food. Or, they can be more high tech such as those that are built into rice cookers.
You need steamers because steaming helps retain nutrition in food, which gets lost when the food comes in contact with large amounts of water [which happens the most in boiling].
Remember, steam foods only till their colour turns brighter. For example, dark green broccoli should become bright grass green and cauliflower should go from off white to vivid white. For the highest nutritional value of vegetables, steam them for just 2 – 3 minutes.
Oil spritzers/misters help reduce the oil you consume as they are used to spray a small, controlled amount of oil evenly in the cookware. Spritzers can be empty ones into which you can fill the oil of your choice or ready-to-use ones with an oil already filled in. You get spritzers with olive oil, which is great for quick stir-fry items or sauteing vegetables, or margarine/butter, which is great for lining baking pans when making fresh, home-made multi-grain bread!
A spritzer is a great weight control tool as it helps limit your total calorie intake by regulating the fat [oil, margarine] you consume, which has nine calories per gram.
If you buy an empty spritzer, remember to change your oil every month so that you get an even distribution of the heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet.
Measuring cups and spoons
Portion control is another important thing to do when you are watching your weight. And that’s why it’s important that you have measuring cups and spoons. They take the guessing out of portion sizes and help you understand your total calorie intake without the number-crunching.
For example, 3/4 cup of dry cereal [wheat flakes, corn flakes] equals one serving of starch; one cup raw salad is one serving of vegetables. The general rule is two teaspoons of oil per person per day. So if there are five people in your home, it is best to keep aside 10 teaspoons of oil in the morning and use only that container for the entire day’s cooking [That is if you are not using an oil mister for cooking].
With the total intake of oil being controlled, the best way to ensure foods are cooked well in a minimum amount of oil is by using non-stick cookware. The durable inner coating of non-stick utensils allows food to cook quickly and evenly while maintaining the nutritional value. Since non-stick cookware is more expensive than regular steel or aluminium cookware, you may want to start with just a few basics such as a good non-stick pan and wok or a deep pot for vegetables.
Use wooden or plastic spoons with non-stick cookware, while stirring for instance, as steel or metal utensils may scratch the non-stick surface, rendering it less effective. It is also potentially harmful as the inner lining of the non-stick surface is made from chemicals that are not meant to be ingested. Also avoid cleaning your non-stick cookware with steel scrubs or abrasive sponges, as it leaves scratches.
Vegetarians have a low iron intake. Using iron tawas helps make up for this deficit as food made using these, leeches iron from the tawa, thus making them good sources of iron.
One simple tip—rub a raw onion on the hot tawa for about 30 seconds. This helps to keep dosas and chillas/pancakes from sticking to the tawa. It also makes the dosas crisp.
Egg white separator
High protein, low carbohydrate diets are still the craze. And since eggs are the perfect protein, containing all essential amino acids [the building blocks of protein], they make for a healthy and economic protein option. However, with the increased incidence of heart disease due to high cholesterol levels, people are now switching from consuming whole eggs to eating just the egg whites. And an egg white separator helps you separate the egg whites from the cholesterol-filled yolks with no mess. Simply break the egg into the separator and watch it catch the yolk and let the white fall through two holes on the side into a bowl below.
It’s an important tool to have if you are an egg eater and have diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cholesterol issues because an egg yolk has 186mg of cholesterol [which is close to your upper limit of 200mg dietary cholesterol per day].
Although I am not a big advocate of juicing as you lose large amounts of fibre when you juice fruits and vegetables, I do believe in having juices from time to time to cleanse the system. So if you’re into drinking juices, a juicer at home ensures that you have clean, fresh juice any time you like [although juices are best had in the morning on an empty stomach and freshly made].
You can get an electric juicer if you fancy high-tech gadgets, but even a simple manual juicer to juice oranges, sweet limes, and lemons is just as effective.
Healthy hint: Add the fibre back into your juice with unflavoured physillium husk [available at most chemists]. Get an extra boost of immunity by adding a shot of fresh wheat grass juice or wheat grass powder to your juice.
So equip your kitchen with these simple yet effective tools.
This was first published in the April 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing
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