Healthy Cooking Index
The HCI also aligns nicely with the recommendations for healthy eating that are advocated by evidenced-based organizations, such as the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). For example, AICR recommends eating a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. The HCI specifically studies the use of these items in cooking practices. AICR also recommends limiting processed foods that are high in fats, starches, or sugar, and the HCI considers this as well.
Additionally, the researchers who developed the HCI have shared their plan for anyone to read: An evidence-based conceptual framework of healthy cooking (nih.gov). If you’re thinking about cooking more at home, look at the HCI and see what cooking skills might be most helpful for you to develop to receive the health benefits from cooking at home.
Here are some strategies to help you cook and serve healthy meals at home:
- Cook with low fat methods such as baking, boiling, steaming, and grilling.
- Swap processed meats for more fresh proteins seasoned with herbs, spices, and salt-free seasonings.
- Choose vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in place of ultra-processed side dishes.
- Use olive oil to cook vegetables. Avoid adding gravies and sauces made with cream on vegetables.
- Measure ingredients, especially salt, oil, fat, and sugar. For example, measure oil with a teaspoon.
- Pay attention to portion sizes. If a recipe states it makes 4 servings, try to eat only one portion. You can save the other portions for future meals or share with family.
About the Author
Karen Smith, MS, RD, CSO, LD is a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition. As the Manager of Dietary and Clinical Nutrition Services, she is an advocate for creating access to nutrition care for oncology patients at Texas Oncology. Prior to coming to Texas Oncology, Karen spent over 15 years as a clinical dietitian working primarily in oncology settings with adult and pediatric patients. Her research interests include late effects of childhood cancers and low glycemic diets during cancer therapy.