When it comes to eating healthfully, the way you prepare food can be just as important as what you buy, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a nutrition expert and author of “Read It Before You Eat It.” For example, cooking some foods makes their nutrients more available, such as lycopene in tomatoes and carotene in carrots.
But some common cooking habits can be unhealthful, according to Taub-Dix and other experts. Salting water to make it boil faster when preparing pasta not only doesn’t work, but also adds unnecessary sodium. And rinsing chicken before roasting it can spread pathogenic bacteria in your kitchen sink. Following are some cooking mistakes to avoid the next time you prepare a meal.

Mistreating your vegetables. Boiling and overcooking certain vegetables robs them of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, instead try steaming them.

Salting food before tasting. Just one teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the generally recommended daily limit. For people who are 51 or older, and African-Americans or those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the recommended maximum is 1,500 milligrams a day. To cut down on sodium, remove the salt shaker from your table and try to train yourself to be satisfied with less.

Not rinsing canned vegetables. You can cut down on sodium in canned vegetables and legumes, such as black beans and chickpeas, by rinsing them in water. That helps lower their sodium content by about 10 percent or more. But be aware that rinsing can also remove some of the vitamin C from certain canned vegetables, such as peas.

Failing to remove fat from ground beef. If you pan-fry burgers instead of broiling or grilling them, be sure to pour off the fat. If you’re going to use cooked meat in a casserole or for pasta sauce, consider first blotting it with paper tpwels, or rinsing it under hot tap water in a colander and then draining for 5 minutes.

Pan-frying instead of oven-frying  Food soaks up oil as it fries. How much depends on the food, the temperature of the oil, and whether the food is coated  Research shows that vegetables such as potatoes suck up more fat during frying than meat does. Try switching to oven-frying which uses little oil but still delivers a “fried” crunch.

Baking with white floor only. The milling process that produces white flour not only removes fiber but also saps the flour of iron and several B vitsmins When baking, try replacing some white flour with fiber-rich whole-grain flour.

Preparing fat-free veggie salads. Using fat-free dressing or a squeeze of lemon on a salad saves some calories, but also may prevent your body from absorbing all of the nutrients in the vegetables. Researchers at Purdue University found that adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil to a salad can boost the body’s absorption of carotenoids.

Mishandling olive oil. Of all the types of olive oil, extra-virgin should contain the most phenols, that is, natural health-promoting plant chemicals with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticlotting properties. Heat, air, and light can affect olive oils flavor and possibly its nutrients, so be sure to buy extra-virgin oil in a small, dark-colored bottle, and keep it tightly capped and stored in a kitchen cabinet away from the stove and sunny countertops.

Overcooking fresh garlic. Garlic has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers and heart disease. But if you cook it too long, you might miss out on some of its benefits. So keep cooking times as brief as possible, and crush or chop garlic rather than using the whole cloves, which tend to lose their health benefits faster in cooking. To get the maximum nutritional advantage, add raw garlic to homemade salad dressings, pesto, or hummus.

Sticking to the same menu. Preparing the same type of meal over and over, or likewise limiting the food you eat, restricts your nutrient intake. Research has linked a varied diet to better overall health and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health January 2013