Food & Drink

Shortcuts to healthier cooking

You want healthier meals? Cook more of them.

That's usually the advice from health experts. Easier said than done.

For real-world advice, I turned to two home-cooking pros in North Carolina – culinary instructor Sheri Castle and freelance food writer Debbie Moose.

Both women understand the advantages of eating at home.

“The more control you have over what you're feeding yourself and your family, the more you can control your intakes of fat, sugar and sodium – especially sodium,” said Moose.

To get you started:

Create shortcuts. “I have no problem with canned beans or tomatoes or frozen vegetables,” said Castle.

Moose agrees. She looks for low-sodium canned goods, adjusting the flavor herself using herbs and spices. She buys frozen vegetables without added sauce.

“Canned beans are a great base for lots of foods – bean chili, bean quesadillas. Rinse and drain them,” said Moose. She also uses frozen vegetables to make vegetable quesadillas.

Moose uses bottled pasta sauce over cooked vegetables, whole wheat pasta and pizza dough. She also rolls up leftovers in flour tortillas.

Both women are fans of batch cooking. Castle uses a rice cooker to make steamed rice and freezes it for later.

Moose chops several peppers and onions at a time and freezes them in quarter-cup portions.

“You can do the same thing with fruit,” she said. “Cut up peaches and freeze them. Then you have it for smoothies or dessert with ice cream.”

Another tip from Castle: “If you need a tiny amount of a fresh ingredient, buy it from the salad bar.”

Invest in kitchen helpers. Castle and Moose are fans of Crock-Pot slow cookers.

Castle also swears by her Cuisinart countertop grill, which she uses to make grilled vegetables and panini.

Other must-haves: a good knife and a 10-inch cast iron skillet. “Nearly a universal instrument,” said Castle.