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Ask the Dietitian is not a substitute for a consultation with a professional who can inform you of all the facts of your particular situation. We answer questions in general terms only, to give you information that may used as a starting point.
TOPIC - Cooking
Question
I'm a beginner in cooking and am trying to lose weight. I would like to find out if there are some simple meals that i could cook for lunch that is healthy for me and my family. And I would like to have some advice that could help me along.
Answer
The Health Promotion Board has a number of healthy recipes on their website at the following link: www.hpb.gov.sg. You can pick some of the simpler recipes and try them. In general if you are trying to lose weight, you should avoid using excessive amounts of oil and fat. Thus have fried foods no more than 3 times per week, particularly deep fried foods. Serve more steamed, boiled or braised dishes. It is also important not just what you eat, but how much. If you overeat even healthy foods, you will still gain weight. Exercise is another important component when trying to lose weight. Go for a walk daily or at least 3 times per week for 20-30 minutes.
Question
Is there a big difference between eating frozen vegetables as opposed to eating fresh ones?
Answer
If you are concerned about the nutrient content of frozen vegetables, they are quite comparable to eating fresh one. Most frozen vegetables are processed quickly after harvesting, so nutrients are retained. Frozen vegetables are convenient and if they help you eat more vegetables because they are easy to prepare and you always have some on hand, then you should certainly continue to use them. They can also be stored for longer periods with little change in nutrient, taste or texture.

Fresh vegetables, on the other hand are higher in fiber plus some vegetables are only available fresh such as leafy ones. With fresh vegetables, you have store them carefully as some vitamins such as vitamin C are very perishable. The longer you store the vegetables, the more vitamins are lost. Eat fresh vegetables as soon as possible after purchase for maximum benefit.
Question
Will cooking vegetables affect the nutrients contents in them?
Answer
Yes, the cooking method as well as the amount of time you cook a vegetable will affect the nutrient content, especially the water-soluble vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin C.

The longer you cook a vegetable, the more heat-sensitive vitamins are lost. Also vitamins which are water-soluble leach into the cooking liquid if the vegetables are cooked in water (see answer to question below). Use cooking methods that re-uses the cooking liquid such as soups, or uses very little liquid such as steaming or microwaving to preserve nutrients.
Question
My sister loves to snack on foods high in calories and fat. How can I prepare some appetising snack items to encourage her to eat healthily? What kind of snacks would you recommend?
Answer
Depending on the type of snacks your sister likes ie. crunchy & salty like potato or tapioca crisps, corn chips, etc, you can substitute with pretzels or taco chips & salsa. If she likes cold & creamy foods like ice cream, try getting her to eat low-fat frozen yoghurt or juice bars (ice popsicles made from fruit juice). You can make these by freezing juices like orange, mango, guava in little plastic containers. Place an ice cream stick through a slit in the middle of a piece of cardboard that sits on top of the container for easy removal. For more snack suggestions, read the article on Snack Attack in the Healthy Eating section.

Another suggestion is to make the snacks together - you may find that your sister is more receptive to different snacks if the two of you made it together. Some snack items which works well are sandwiches, fruit salad, pizza, popiah, raw veggie sticks (carrots, celery, green pepper, etc.).
Question
I was reading that it is better to steam rather than boil vegetables. Is that right?
Answer
Steaming helps to retain the nutrients in the vegetables, especially water-soluble vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin C. The vitamins dissolve into the water when you boil the vegetables; you can help retain the vitamins by re-using the cooking liquid for soup, sauces and gravy. Also avoid soaking vegetables in water before cooking to reduce losses. High cooking temperature and long cooking times also destroy heat sensitive nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, and folate, so keep cooking times short. Cook vegetables only to tender crisp, use a lid to speed up cooking time, and leave the peel on whenever possible to help reduce nutrient loss.
Question
I am interested to know whether what kind of food is suitable for one-dish meal and the type of nutrients present in it.
Answer
One-dish meals are a great way to include foods from the different food groups, such as those below to create a balanced meal. Thus, take an item such as rice or noodles/pasta, combine it with your favourite meat or alternative such as diced chicken or tofu, and vegetables such as carrots and onions; add seasoning or canned soup; simmer in pot or place in casserole dish & cook at 350 deg. F for 45 minutes. You can have endless combinations and be able to create a new meal each time. These meals are also great time-savers.
The amount of nutrients in each meal will depend on the ingredients that you use.
ONE-POT MEALS
(Pick at least one from each group)
Rice & Alternatives
White Rice
Brown Rice
Noodles
Macaroni
Spiral Pasta
Shell Pasta
Barley
Meat & Alternatives
Diced chicken
Ham
Tuna
Cheese
Tofu
Cooked Beans
Ground meat
Vegetables
Carrots
Onions
Bell peppers
Potatoes
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Canned tomatoes


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