Our integrative nutrition coaching is so individual-specific that we hesitate to give general tips that are meant for everyone… but here are some basic healthy cooking tips that tend to apply regardless of what exactly you’re eating:
Wash fresh produce
Fruits and veggies from the supermarket have been on quite a journey to get to you, and their skin likely contains wax, agricultural chemicals and “handling residue”—whatever was on the hands of the people who picked, packed, unpacked and touched them at the store before you. To remove these things, wash your store-bought produce in a vegetable wash like Veggie Wash, or use these homemade methods:
For most produce with a skin: soak for 15 minutes in a large bowl of purified water with *either* 1 cup distilled white vinegar, a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, or 1 teaspoon baking soda; scrub gently, rinse and dry.
For greens: fill a salad spinner with greens, purified water, a teaspoon of baking soda and mix well; soak for a few minutes, swish, dump, rinse, spin dry.
For berries: soak briefly in 2 cups purified water and ½ cup fresh lemon juice, then rinse in fresh purified water and dry.
For mushrooms: wipe with a damp cloth or mushroom brush.
(Note: exposure to soil microorganisms is great for your immune system, so produce from your own garden does not need to be washed thoroughly like this.)
Practice safe food handling
Store foods at safe temperatures: cold foods 40 °F or below, hot foods 140 °F or above, and frozen foods 0 °F or below.
Perishable foods are in the “danger zone” between 40–140 °F. Don’t let them hang out there for more than two hours (one hour if the temp is above 90 °F).
Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish and ground meats within two days; beef, lamb and pork within 3-5 days (or follow the advice of the meat/seafood counter you purchased from).
No double dipping! Bacteria from your mouth can grow in condiments like jelly and mayonnaise, so always use a clean utensil.
Use the stovetop fan when cooking to help filter gas and any fumes released from cookware.
Use bamboo or silicone utensils to avoid scratching and damaging cookware.
Cast iron should not be washed in soap or with abrasive scrubbies. Clean up easily by boiling water in the pan to loosen food particles and wiping it clean with a dishcloth. Keep your cast iron well oiled between uses.
Acidic cooking (like tomato-based foods) or longer cooking foods (like long-simmering bone broth) is best done in enameled cast iron.
Grilling meat (particularly charring or overcooking it) produces chemical compounds that are shown to increase risk of cancer. The hotter and longer meat is cooked, the more of these carcinogenic compounds are formed. However, keep in mind that these impacts are based on large, long-term doses—eating charred barbeque every day carries a much higher risk than enjoying it every now and then.
We love a charcoal grill cookout just as much as the next person, but grilling meat over charcoal creates more carcinogenic byproducts than gas grills. Lump charcoal, such as that from campfires, is less harmful than charcoal briquettes—so if you’re going to use charcoal, choose natural briquettes rather than those processed with additives and skip the chemical lighter fluid!
Marinating meat before grilling it helps to reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds. Choose acid-based marinades like vinegar, lemon/lime, wine, beer or yogurt. There’s a similar effect when rubbing meat with herbs/spices such as rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, oregano, turmeric, onion powder or fresh garlic before grilling.