Vegan Cooking 101: Healthy

Vegan Cooking 101: Healthy
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

Vegan Cooking 101: Part 1

3 steps to make your meals exceptionally healthy

I used to be a terrible cook, and I definitely had no idea about healthy cooking techniques.

(Which may sound funny coming from someone who now teaches online cooking classes – but bear with me!)

I remember having a breakdown in the kitchen one time when I burned some soup. I thought, “how is it possible to burn soup???”

But I’m living proof that yes, you can learn how to cook amazing healthy meals for you and your family – no matter how bad you think you are at cooking!

It took me a long time to gain confidence in myself in the kitchen.

I practiced, I experimented, I made tons of mistakes along the way. It wasn’t until I took some cooking classes online that I finally figured out the thought process that made me feel truly comfortable creating a dish – and was the first time I could make things without using a recipe.

Having spent a lot of time working on it, I’ve learned how to make meals with amazing flavors, and that also give me the nutrients I need to coast through my day full of energy and feeling just plain happy!

Back when I was a student eating plain white pasta with canned tomato sauce practically every night, I never felt fully healthy and energetic.

I was always tired – but I couldn’t sleep. I had a lot of gas and indigestion, and I got sick fairly often. Even though I’m older now, and should supposedly have less energy, I feel better and more energized because I feed myself properly.

Right now, if you put a plate in front of me with the boring pasta I used to eat all the time, I wouldn’t even bother with it.

Since learning how to make super-flavorful meals that are also packed with nutrients, I know that food is so much more than something to just fill up my stomach.

From all the many things I’ve learned, I’m going to boil it down here to 3 simple steps to make your meals exceptionally healthy:

1. Nutrient-Dense Foods

Eating foods that pack the most nutrients is the best way to boost the healthiness of your dishes:

  • Fresh sprouts are incredibly nutritious. You can put clover or alfalfa sprouts on top of anything, since they have a mild flavor. Try them on a sandwich, pizza, burger, tacos, stir fry, salad, even on top of soup, or in fruit smoothies.
  • Fresh herbs (like parsley, cilantro, basil and others) are loaded with nutrients. Try them tossed in a salad or blended in a dip or a smoothie. Basil in a peach-blueberry-banana smoothie is amazing.
  • Spices may be a tiny portion of your meal, but they have small amounts of important nutrients like amino acids (protein) and tons of antioxidants. They help boost your digestive system and metabolism, so they can help you digest and absorb the nutrients from your food.

2. Healthy Cooking Techniques

Once you have the healthiest foods in your meal, using the healthiest cooking techniques can maximize the nutrients:

  • Eat lots of raw produce since it retains the most vitamins and minerals. But light cooking can make certain nutrients more available to your body. Also, if cooking makes things more delicious you’ll wind up eating more veggies overall 😉
  • Most of the time, I eat vegetables raw, steamed (or lightly boiled in soup) or baked. These are the cooking methods that don’t rely on oil, and that maintain the most nutrients since it minimizes the exposure to heat and water.
  • Nutrients can also break down when they’re exposed to air. Cut produce as you use it, try to use the whole piece and eat leftovers as soon as possible. The vitamin C in lemon juice is an antioxidant, so it can help slow the oxidation.

3. Sneaky Healthy Tips

Sometimes you’re dealing with a picky eater. These tips will help you sneak healthy foods into unsuspecting mouths:

  • Sauces and dips: Add red pepper to hummus, puree steamed cauliflower with a little bit of almond butter for a really creamy sauce or make a rich mushroom gravy.
  • Puree or grate into treats: This is a time-honored tradition that I think has room for expansion. Think of carrot cake, chocolate zucchini cupcakes, pumpkin muffins, raspberry-banana-sprout ice cream, beet brownies, chocolate sweet potato custard… I could go on and on and on…

The next step is to make these healthy foods super flavorful…

I’ll get into flavor in more detail soon, but for now here’s an amazing recipe to show you how to use the information above to make a super healthy (and super tasty) avocado dipping sauce:

Super Healthy Avocado Dip Recipe

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 green onion
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Sea salt, to taste

Puree all ingredients until smooth. Eat. Smile.

Serving ideas…

  • Slice some cucumber, spoon a bit of dip on top, and put half a cherry tomato on top.
  • Bake some sweet potato fries dusted with a bit of cayenne and dip them.
  • Spread some dip on a pita or a wrap and fill it up with fresh chopped peppers, cucumber, tomato and alfalfa sprouts.

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Any questions? Or any comments about what you do to bring some nutrition into your meals? Let me know below.

(And if you want to learn more healthy cooking techniques and recipes, be sure to check out my online cooking classes).

Coming up next: How to make your food taste incredible

After you get the ‘healthy’ part of cooking down, it’s time to focus on taste!

‘Cause let’s face it – if you tell someone you made an exceptionally healthy meal, they’re probably going to assume it tastes like cardboard, right?

If you know the right techniques, your healthy meal can have so much amazing flavor you’ll blow them away.

Not signed up for this series? Get in on it, over on the left.

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