How To Make Healthy Home Cooked Food Appetizing by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Nutritionist in Dubai
Cooking Healthy Food At Home
Tell me if this is a typical week for you:
- Monday, grilled chicken and vegetables.
- Tuesday, baked salmon and brown rice.
- Wednesday, you grill chicken again. Maybe add in some sweet potatoes to keep it exciting.
- Thursday to Sunday… pizza, burgers, Chinese, tacos, any other dining out option you can get your hands on.
If cooking healthy food at home sounds a little overwhelming to you, keep reading. If making healthy food taste delicious seems impossible to you, keep reading!
Rana is a healthy recipe developer, a kid chef specialist (yep that exists, she recreates every kids’ favorite food), and last but not least, a mom with a 4 year old son/sous chef. Her specialty is making healthier versions of all our traditional meals as well as creating new and exciting recipes filled with nutrients and flavor.
How To Make Healthy Food More Interesting
Today, we’re going to find out what we can do to our grilled chickens and our baked salmons to make them just as GOOD AS DINING OUT! Without all the trans fat and processed additions, of course. Sounds too good to be true, right? It isn’t! And I’m so excited to show you guys how good your home cooked food can be without compromising on health and nutritional value, and keeping it an enjoyable process.
Interview With @Rana_Cooks On Healthy Cooking
What got you into nutritious cooking?
I just got into cooking a few years ago. Till I was 29 years old, I used to think of myself as someone that doesn't know how to scramble eggs. So this wasn’t an early passion, it developed over the years. All of a sudden, I found myself running a food blog and creating recipes. My background has nothing to do with cooking, it’s actually in fundraising and working with nonprofits and raising funds and supporting causes. While I was working full time, I was using some time to experiment in the kitchen.
I started with regular cooking, explored my cravings, and experimented with both savory and sweet. When my son was born, I started to consider alternative healthier options and change our lifestyle as a family.
Is it possible to make healthy food as appetizing as dining out?
Yes! It can be enjoyable, appetizing, and tasty. You’ll feel better knowing what you’re putting in your body. My motto is “everything can be made into a healthier version”. You don’t have to enjoy everything healthy, just like there are probably unhealthy foods you don’t like.
Why do so many people think healthy cooking means tasteless?
Because of the history of diet culture. But the good thing is that things are changing. For a long time, we used to connect food that made us lose weight to being tasteless and unappetizing. Or we would eliminate whole food groups like fats and carbs, which are the best ones! Now we know we don’t have to do that to live healthy.
Does healthy cooking have to be a lengthy process?
No it doesn't! I’m not the type to spend hours in the kitchen, and I’ve found you can absolutely make a healthy dish in under an hour. If you’re a person who enjoys cooking, then sure it can take a while or all day. It’s what you want it to be, you can invest the time you want, just like working out!
What ingredients would you recommend for people to have or swap out?
- Whole grain rice and whole grain pastas instead of white rice and white pasta.
- Quinoa, lentils, legumes, and oats are great to have in the pantry always
- Include 3 vegetables in your fridge per week, this keeps them fresh and ensures you use them
- Always have chicken and meats in your freezer
- Freekeh and bulgur also great nutritional value plus they cook fast
- Avoid canned and processed meats like hot dogs, bologna and mortadella
What are the spices and herbs you swear by?
Spices and herbs can definitely make a meal exciting. My favorites are:
- Black pepper. It's like salt and it elevates the flavor!
- I always have to have cinnamon, it works for savory and sweet and it's my go-to.
- Another spice I love is cumin, especially if you're vegetarian and you are integrating more beans and legumes into your diet, cumin can help reduce the bloating effect.
- Turmeric and ginger are good because they’re all natural antioxidants.
Some tips when using spices: Play around with the combinations, don't be stingy with them and look for quality ingredients and spices at the supermarket.
How can we make grilled chicken exciting?
By using spices and herbs and marinating your chicken beforehand. Marinade with white vinegar, lemon, garlic, spices, a teaspoon of olive oil, yogurt, and give it time to tenderize. Soak it either half an hour or overnight.
Some more creative marinade ideas include peanut butter, honey soy, or pesto. Another way you can make chicken more exciting is by shredding it and serving it on whole grain toast to make a delicious sandwich. You could even serve it with a side of veggies and some rice.
What oils and sauces do you use, and how much?
Some people don't like to use oils and that's where the herbs and spices come in! I know boiling and steaming sound bland, but don’t rule those methods out. You can combine them with sauces and spices to make them more flavorful.
Store bought marination has so much oil, so I would recommend making your own sauces. As for oils, olive oil tops the list for me. It’s amazing to cook with but not on high heat. I also love to use it cold, I just drizzle it over a final dish.
Another favorite is avocado oil, it has a milder flavor and is high in benefits. Coconut oil is also good to work with.
Do you recommend using measuring cups and spoons in savory cooking?
Savory cooking is a lot more forgiving than baking, you’re allowed to eyeball and not stick to measurements 100%, so that’s what I do. At the beginning though, I did measure out cups and teaspoons, just until I got used to the process.
However, making things like rice and quinoa do require accurate measurements, so I do recommend you have measuring cups and spoons in your kitchen for dishes like that. Following a recipe and specific ingredients gives you more confidence.
What’s your go-to recipe?
If I want something fast and simple, I make frittatas, quinoa salad, or veggie rice. Basically I just throw in what I have in the fridge as long as there’s a protein, veggies, and some type of carb. I always have quinoa made and ready in the freezer. They’re divided up into portions in muffin tins, so I just grab one portion when I need it.
Another go-to dish for me is a stew that I would have made earlier and divided up. They’re great for last minute meals and when you’re in a rush! The next time you’re making bazella or molokheyeh, just make a big portion so you can save some in the freezer for later. Also, freezer bags and tupperwares are your best friends, so stock your kitchen with them.
The quality stays the same for frozen foods up to 2 - 3 months. The nutritional value won’t deteriorate!
What are 3 tips the listener can apply today to transform their home cooking experience?
- Start with your pantry and fridge! Stock up with key healthy ingredients.
- Double up portions when you cook to freeze and use the next day or later.
- Start with changing your mindset towards cooking. Think of it as something you enjoy because it can be fun and experimental if you put on some music and not take it too seriously!
Cooking Healthy Homemade Food CAN Be Easy
I’m so excited for you guys to try out Rana’s tips and tricks to make your home cooked food be an exciting experience. Before I let you go, here are some delicious, healthy chicken recipes Rana shared with you guys to try. They’re perfect for when you want to spice up your dishes in a nutritional way!
Two Exciting Chicken Marinade Recipes
All recipes are enough for marinating 500-700 grams of chicken breasts. Can be used for any other chicken parts like for marinating thighs or legs.