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Healthy Home Cooking Is Easier Than You Think

Changing the way we cook in the south can sometimes be a real challenge. We love our fried chicken with all the fixings on Sundays, as well as our cream pies and bread puddings. Although it may sound impossible, it can be done by recognizing these three main tasks.


Changing the way we cook in the south can sometimes be a real challenge. We love our fried chicken with all the fixings on Sundays, as well as our cream pies and bread puddings. Although it may sound impossible, it can be done by recognizing these three main tasks.

Trying to cook and eat healthier at home can be achieved firstly by being prepared and having the necessary items and most wholesome ingredients on hand. For instance, how can you prepare steamed vegetables if you don’t have a steamer basket?

Secondly, you need to prepare those foods in the most healthful and tasteful way. Making fresh, healthy snacks readily available would be third.

Let’s examine these three steps in more detail, beginning with smart shopping. The key to smart shopping is a list. Make fruits and vegetables top priority on your list. Take advantage of seasonal produce and review the weekly newspaper sales ads.

When choosing fruits and vegetables to buy, remember dark green, deep orange and other dark colors generally signify a high nutritional content. For instance, red or green leaf lettuce provides more nutrition than does iceberg lettuce; therefore, spinach in a salad will provide more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce.

In addition to providing lots of vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are also an invaluable source of fiber and health promoting phytochemicals. Tofu and soy-based products can also be found in the produce department. They can be an excellent source of phytochemicals, as well as calcium and protein. In addition to tofu, you will find soy-based cheeses, meats, milks, and ice creams.

Next on your list should be whole grains. Try to choose brown rather than white rice; whole wheat or other whole grain breads rather than white or bleached. Keep both white and wheat flour on hand for baking. Other things to keep on hand are oats, whole grain pasta, and whole grain cereals. At least half of your grain servings should come from whole grains.

Don’t forget the meat, fish and dairy sections of the store when preparing your list. When buying meat, look for the leanest possible cuts; and opt for skim and low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.

In general, the majority of the isles can be avoided when shopping, other than when you need staples, such as flour, cereal or condiments. Staying along the perimeter of the store will help you avoid loading up on highly processed foods and snacks. This will keep your attention focused on fresh, healthy foods that are found in the produce, dairy, fish and meat sections of the store.

Having the right equipment and ingredients on hand is the first battle; second is using them to prepare healthy, delicious meals. Here’s a list of smart preparation tips:

  • Use olive or safflower oil instead of partially hydrogenated fats, oils and margarine whenever possible.
  • Substitute chicken broth for butter or margarine in dishes like mashed potatoes.
  • Steam vegetables and try adding basil, rosemary, or garlic flavor instead of butter.
  • Trim all visible fat off of meat and remove the skin of poultry.

Also keep in mind that you don’t need meat at every meal. This is probably the hardest of all obstacles to overcome. We are used to planning a meat for every meal and feel like we are cheating our families if we don’t.

Making healthy snacks readily available might be the most important factor in helping your family eat well. Snacks should be in easy grabbing distance – placed ready to eat on the table, counter, or wherever your family will pass in search of a snack. If these healthy, wholesome options are not easily accessible, you and your family will likely end up choosing a more processed, sugary snack.

Here are a few of the things I try to keep handy for snacking:

  • Freshly washed grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, pears, kiwi, and other fruits that are in season.
  • Baby carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Pretzels and baked chips
  • Low-fat fruit yogurt

Each of these steps may take a little practice and planning, but they will certainly be worth it in the end. The best meals should be enjoyed with family and friends in the comfort of your home. Moreover, eating at home leaves you in total control of what you eat and how it was prepared.

If you would like more information on Healthy Cooking at Home, contact me at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Miller County, (870) 779-3609, or e-mail

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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