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Rustling up a healthy snack

Today, low fat cooking has become a trend, as most people want to look fit and eat healthy.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 03, 2011 15:08 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

By using healthy cooking techniques, you can have meals that taste good and score high on the nutrition quotient. The method of cooking, heating, size of the vegetable cut, all have an impact on the nutrient value of the food. We can prepare our favourite recipes using cooking techniques with less fat than usual method. Some of them are baking, braising, grilling, boiling, poaching, steaming and stir frying and sautéing.

Sautéing is one of the healthiest way to cook as it involves little or no oil. It’s one of the fastest ways to cook, where vegetables retain more nutrients and maintain their texture and colour. The browning attained by sautéing imparts richness to the dish. Whether you’re cooking meat or vegetables, the cooking time to sauté is short, so the foods need to be tender naturally. Fish and chicken cuts are some of the best options. The tougher food needs to be blanched first and then sautéed. They should be cut uniformly for cooking.

Sauté without oil
With a good non-stick pan, you can easily sauté without using oil. Heat your pan before adding the food. You may add a tablespoon of water or broth to prevent sticking. Covering the pan will make vegetables cook faster but they may not turn brown. Do not use more than a quarter of water, broth or stock. Maintain a high temperature; add dry, uniformly cut vegetables/ fish/ chicken slowly in order to avoid reducing heat. Adding too many ingredients in the pan will steam the food instead of sauté. Stir regularly until food is crisp.

Oil substitutes
Other than water, vegetables and meat can be sautéed in other ingredients like soy sauce, vegetable broth, meat stock, wine, rice vinegar, tomato juice, lemon juice, and ginger, garlic, tamarind and tomato purées. To compensate for the typical flavour of oils like mustard and coconut, you can use paste made from the powders of mustard seeds and dry coconut with water.

Low-fat recipe
Sautéed vegetables can be used in pasta, salads, wraps or used as side dishes. You will need a large pan, vegetables of your choice like tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, vegetable broth, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Thinly chop onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and brocolli.
Place pan on stove and set the burner to a medium temperature and let it heat up. Pour the stock into the pan.
When broth begins to steam, add the veggies and stir. Continue to cook until the veggies are tender (about 4-5 minutes). Remove from heat.
Sprinkle seasonings, like pepper, thyme, and salt.
Squeeze lemon juice on the vegetables. Serve it over brown rice. It can be also be served as a side dish to meat, chicken or fish. This sautéed snack is low-fat and rich in nutrients.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre