You are finally buying your own healthy produce and cooking healthy food instead of relying on fast food take-out. Go, girl! It is truly commendable that you are taking your meals (and your waistline) into your own hands. However, you might still be committing several unhealthy mistakes in the way you store and prepare your food. Find out what these mistakes are and how you can stop making them.
#1. You Overload On Produce
The veggies and fruits are on offer, so you go wild and buy enough for two weeks. You have saved time and money! But did you know that the longer you store fresh produce the less nutritional value you get from them? For instance, spinach loses half of its folate and 40% of its lutein (an antioxidant which improves eye health) content after a week in the fridge. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, broccoli loses 62% of its antioxidants within ten days in the fridge.
Buy your fresh produce in smaller batches which last for not more than a week; preferably shop at least twice a week. Alternatively, buy frozen produce; they are harvested at their nutritional peak and flash-frozen immediately. This makes them retain most of their nutritional value for a year. However, avoid frozen packed in sauces or syrups as they have extra calories and sodium.
#2. You Store Your Food In Transparent Containers
See-through Tupperware looks simply spiffy on your kitchen countertop, doesn’t it? But it might be time to consider switching to opaque containers. When exposed to light, certain nutrients such as amino acids and Vitamins A, C, D and E lose their potency. Nutritionists recommend that we buy milk in cardboard cartons rather than in clear jugs. This is because the Vitamin B in milk might be affected by exposure to light. Grain products also tend to be high in riboflavin, so it is advisable to store them in opaque containers in kitchen cabinets away from the light. While at it, go for glass instead of plastic containers.
#3. You’re Too Quick To Cook Garlic
There is no doubt that garlic makes food delicious, but it is also packed with health benefits. It reduces the risk of cancer, lowers cholesterol, improves insulin sensitivity and offers anti-inflammatory benefits. To reap most of the health benefits of garlic, you have to consume it raw or cooked correctly. Chop, slice, or crush garlic cloves and set aside for at least 10 minutes before cooking. This causes an enzymatic reaction which releases a healthy compound called allyl sulphur.
#4. You Wash Raw Chicken
You always give chicken a good rinse in the sink before popping it into the pot. This, you assume, makes the chicken more hygienic and healthier for you. But this habit is far from healthy. As you wash the chicken, you splash salmonella and Campylobacter (chicken bacteria) onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment. This increases your chances of food poisoning from the cross contamination. Stop washing raw chicken. Only cooking it thoroughly can effectively kill its bacteria.
#5. You Thaw Meat On The Counter Or In Hot Water
As your meat defrosts on the counter, the outer layers warm up and promote bacterial growth. Dipping the frozen meat in water will also have the same effect. Some of the safe ways to thaw your meat include in the refrigerator or in cold water. If you are cooking the meat immediately, you can safely thaw it in the microwave.
#6. You Store Eggs In The Fridge Door Egg Holder
Your fridge came with a convenient egg compartment on the door, but you don’t have to use it. The door is the warmest part of the fridge and your eggs will go bad faster when stored there. Additionally, when you remove the eggs from their box to the egg compartment, you are more likely to spread bacteria from the egg shells onto your hands and onto other food in the fridge. Instead, store eggs in the coldest part of your fridge to inhibit bacterial growth.
#7. You Judge Leftovers By Taste, Sight Or Smell
Your leftover food has been sitting in the fridge for days but it still looks, smells and tastes fine. So you serve it for dinner. But as you may have found out the hard way, using sight and smell to judge leftovers can backfire. The types of bacteria responsible for food poisoning might not change its appearance or smell. To be safe, either freeze or dispose leftovers within three to four days.
#8. You Are A Serial Peeler
Do you like peeling eggplants, bell peppers, apples, peaches and mangoes? Then you might be throwing away important nutrients and fibre. A big percentage of antioxidants and polyphenols in veggies and fruits tends to be located very close to the surface of the skin or on the skin itself. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that most fruit peels have two to 27 times more antioxidant activity than the pulp of the fruit. Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to remove as thin a layer as possible from fruits and vegetables that need peeling. For carrots and potatoes, gently scrub away the top layer rather than removing the skin.
#9. You Don’t Disinfect The Kitchen Sponge
The sponge you use for wiping down the counter and cleaning the dishes is a rich breeding ground for bacteria from where they can spread. To minimise the risk of cross-contamination from kitchen sponges, disinfect them every day and replace them regularly. Soak them in a disinfectant for a few hours. Don’t forget to disinfect dishcloths as well.