Healthy Cooking

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Yanyan Chen

Healthy eating is more than just choosing foods. How they are prepared is also important. Healthy eating does not mean giving up your favorite foods or recipes; you can adapt or modify your recipe easily with basic cooking techniques to provide healthier alternatives.

Here are some examples:

  1. Switch your frying to roasting. You not only eliminate added fat but also allow any fat in the food to drip away
  1. Use a cast-iron skillet to reduce the amount of cooking oil
  1. Microwave or steam vegetables instead of boiling them to retain valuable nutrition
  1. Use non-stick cookware to reduce the need for cooking oil

There are many ways to make your meals healthier, such as limiting added fats, sugars, and salts while cooking including a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains into your daily meals. Use these methods often to prepare your favorite dishes.

  • Baking: You can bake all kinds of foods in the oven. Baking in gentle heat allows food to cook slowly and does not require that you add fat to the food (Baked goods like cakes and cookies require specific temperatures and do often require a fat in the recipe).
  • Braising: A combination-cooking method that cooks the food long and slow in the oven or on top of the stove with a small quantity of liquid. Braising tenderizes the meat and enhances the flavor.
  • Broiling: Exposing food to direct heat while on a special two-layer pan especially made for broiling, which allows fat to drip away from the food.
  • Grilling: Cooking food on a rack directly over a heat source which allows fat to drip away from the food.
  • Poaching: Simmering foods in water or flavorful liquid over direct heat until they are cooked through and tender. Foods can retain shape during cooking. This is a good method to cook fragile fish.
  • Roasting: Cooking foods uncovered in the oven. Using a rack inside the roasting pan allows fat in the food to drip away during cooking.
  • Sautéing: Cooking relatively small or thin pieces of food in a small amount of oil or liquid over direct heat.
    • If you choose a non-stick pan, you can cook food without using fat.
    • If you choose a cast-iron skillet, you can cook food with less oil and use of the pan will fortify your food with iron.
  • Steaming: Cooking foods (especially veggies) in a perforated basket suspended above simmering liquids. This helps keep foods’ shape, texture, and nutritional value intact and nutrients not lost in the water.
  • Stir-frying: A traditional Asian method to cook small pieces of foods quickly over very high heat with continuously stirring. A small amount of oil or cooking spray is needed for this cooking method.

* For all cooking methods using animal proteins: Make sure the food reaches a safe internal temperature. Digital “instant-read” thermometers are great to have in the kitchen.

Red Bean Pumpkin Cake Recipe


Pumpkin 150 g
Sugar 10 g (can make without it, too!)
Glutinous rice flour 100 g
Red bean paste Moderate (can make without it, too!)
Water Depend on glutinous rice flour dough
Oil Moderate (for frying)

*Glutinous rice flour is gluten free and ground from long-grain or short-grain sweet white rice and is also called Sweet Rice Flour. It is found in most grocery stores.


  1. Peel the pumpkin and cut in half to remove all the seeds.
  2. Weight the pumpkin and cut it into small and thin pieces.
  3. Put pumpkin pieces into a bowl and steam on boiled water until tender (~15 mins).
  4. Remove from boiled water and set for a few minutes to cool down.
  5. Add sugar into the pumpkin. Then, mash and stir to pumpkin paste or mash to pumpkin paste directly without adding sugar.
  6. Add glutinous rice flour to make a tender dough (add water if needed).
  7. Portion the red bean paste and the pumpkin dough into small balls.
    1. Red bean paste ball: 5-8 g
    2. Pumpkin dough ball: 20 g
    3. You can make it without red bean paste! Just portion the pumpkin dough to 20 g per ball.

8. Stuff red bean paste into glutinous rice flour dough. Then, flatten the dough sightly.You can make it without red bean paste! Just portion the pumpkin dough to 20 g per ball.

    9. Heat an iron-cast pan with medium heat and add oil to the pan.

    10. Try each side of red bean pumpkin cake for around 90 seconds or until golden brown.

    11. Serve and enjoy!!!


    1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Healthy-cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor and Cut Calories.
    2. American Heart Association. How Can I Cook Healthfully.


    This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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