You are here

8 Calorie-Saving Cooking Terms You Need to Know

Baked ham. Roasted chicken. Fried brussels sprouts. Seared salmon. When you order something off a restaurant menu, chances are the chef has carefully selected a cooking method to bring out specific flavors and textures in your foods. Whether that preparation technique is good for your waistline is another story entirely. We asked a couple RDs to give us the 411 on common menu buzzwords, so you know which options are best for your body. Before you go out for your next dinner, lunch, or brunch, consult this list. (Plus, check out 6 New Healthy Foods to Try next time you're at the grocery store.)

Poached
Corbis Images

Poaching is when a food is lowered either partially or completely into hot (but not boiling water), to ensure foods that are fragile under intense heat—like fish or eggs—don’t break. “Poached eggs show up a lot on breakfast menus, for instance,” says Barbara Linhardt, RD, founder of Five Senses Nutrition. “This is a great choice, because poaching does not add any extra calories or fat from fat sources, and the food stays tender and delicious.”

Verdict: Order it!

Sautéed or Stir-fried
Corbis Images

To sauté or stir-fry, the chef cooks up food in a pan or wok with a small amount of fatty oils. “While this method still provides more fat than other cooking methods, it’s not as much as pan-frying or deep-frying,” says Linhardt.” And fat and oil aren't necessarily a bad thing if you keep portions in check. Since it’s tough to keep tabs on restaurants’ use, just don’t order it every time. And if you make at home, be smart. “Make sure to choose healthier fat sources like olive oil or canola oil, both of which provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids linked with decreasing cardiovascular disease risk and inflammation in the body,” says Linhardt. (Test out some different cooking oils to find your favorite. Start off with 8 New Healthy Oils to Cook With!)

Verdict: In moderation

Grilled
Corbis Images

As you know, grilling involves placing food on an open flame, and generally involves minimal amounts of extra fat for lots of taste when compared to other cooking methods. On menus, this is one of your best bets. “Opt for lean-cut grilled proteins, like fish or white-meat poultry, or any veggies,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of New York Nutrition Group. Just beware if you’re ordering off a menu of barbecued classics (or making them yourself). “Traditional BBQ foods, like high-fat, processed, burgers and hot dogs, have been linked to certain types of cancers,” Moskovitz says. Stay lean and you’re all set. (Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Smoked Food Bad for You?)

Verdict: Order it!

Steamed
Corbis Images

When steam rising from boiling water comes in contact with, and cooks, your food, you’ve got yourself a healthy meal. “Nutrients are retained not leached into the water, like what happens when you add food to boiling water, which removes some water-soluble vitamins, or cook in a fat source, which can remove some of the fat-soluble vitamins,” Linhardt says. “Food can more readily maintain its natural texture too.” Linhardt suggest opting for steamed veggies (or making them yourself), as they stay crisp and maintain their pretty color. (Steamed greens are always a good idea, but make sure you don't get bored. Try 16 Ways to Eat More Veggies.)

Verdict: Order it!

Boiled
Corbis Images

Boiled foods like potatoes and other vegetables are submerged into water and heated to a high temperature to cook. While you’re not adding fats or sodium, you could also do better. “Boiling veggies, for instance, often causes them to lose lot of their nutritional greatness,” says Moskovitz. “For that reason, its not best to rely on boiled vegetables. However, boiled eggs are a perfectly healthy option and often much lower in fat than scrambled or pan-fried.”

Verdict: In moderation

Roasted or Baked
Corbis Images

A dry-heat cooking method, is heated generally cooked by hot air in the oven, over an open flame or on a rotisserie. You may see “baked” fish on a menu, or hear “roasted” in reference to meat or veggies—which should be music to your ears. “Often foods that are baked or roasted have less added fat than other cooking methods,” says Linhardt. “Roasted vegetables, with olive oil, herbs and a little salt and pepper, is a great, flavorful dish.” A word of caution: restaurants may baste roasted meat to ensure the food maintains moisture, which can add salt or fat to the dish. Ask a server to check if you’re unsure. (Roasted veggies are just as delicious as a roast chicken. Try this recipe for Super Simple Roasted Herbed Veggie Chips.)

Verdict: Order it!

Seared or Blackened
Corbis Images

Similar to sauteing, this method involves a small amount of oil until the outside is caramelized and crispy, or even blackened, while the inside is only partially heated. “Since a little fat is good for nutrient absorption and satiety, it is okay to order foods prepared this way on occasion—maybe one or two times a week if you’re out at a restaurant,” says Moskovitz. “On the other hand, if you use this method at home, it can be done more regularly as long as oil is portioned out.”

Verdict: In moderation

Pan-Fried or Deep-Fried
Corbis Images

This is the one real sin on the list: Fried food is pretty much never good. Deep-frying involves completely submerging food in a fat source like oil to cook it, whereas in pan-frying involves simply add food to a hot frying pan while only partially covering with fat—but it still packs the calories. “While food that is properly battered and fried will not absorb as much fat as one might assume, it still absorbs more fat than the majority of cooking methods,” says Linhardt. “And if the fat used for frying is old and hasn’t been changed more frequently (think old fast-food fry oil), even more fat will be absorbed into the food than is optimal.” In addition, fried food is irritating to the GI tract, especially for those with acid reflux (GERD), stomach ulcers or other conditions. Overall, say no. If you love fried foods, order only on a rare occasion.

Verdict: Skip it

(What's better than eating out? Eating in, of course! Try 10 Easy Recipes Better Than Take-Out Food for a restaurant-quality, healthy meal right in your own kitchen.)

Comments

Add a comment