The microwave often gets an unwarranted bad rap when it comes to healthy eating. People often think only highly-processed frozen dinners belong in there. However, your microwave could be a great asset in your healthy eating plan.
Steaming your veggies in the microwave will help minimize nutrient losses that occur with other cooking methods, such as boiling. It couldn't be easier--place the vegetables in a shallow dish or bowl and cover completely with microwave-safe plastic wrap. If you're using fresh vegetables, add about one tablespoon of water to the dish before covering. Frozen vegetables don't need any water added. Cook until desired tenderness.
In fact, an even easier method is purchasing the "steamable" bags of vegetables that you simply pop in the microwave. These are a great item to keep on hand in your freezer because they're quick, easy and affordable, and they can be added to a number of dishes to help you reach your recommended daily servings of vegetables.
Fish, a very lean protein, can be cooked very quickly and easily in your microwave. Wrap a fillet sprinkled with some seasoning in microwave-safe plastic wrap and cook for about two minutes on the high setting. The fillet is done when it can be easily flaked with a fork.
Another lean protein that's easily cooked in the microwave is soy/veggie burgers.
Spray a mug or bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Crack two eggs or ½ cup egg substitute into the container and whisk with a fork. Cook for one minute, stir, cook for another 45 seconds or until eggs are cooked throughout. Add spices and a sprinkle of fat-free shredded cheese and--voila--instant breakfast!
Quick Baked Potato or Sweet Potato
A medium potato contains about 160 calories and 4 grams of fiber and provides about 28% of the RDA for vitamin C. Be sure to eat the entire potato, skin and all. Most of the potato's nutrients are housed in the skin and it's perfectly safe to eat as long as you scrub the outside well with water. To cook, use a fork to poke several holes in the potato (if you forget this step, your potato will explode in the microwave!) and cook for about 8-10 minutes, turning over halfway through.
A medium sweet potato contains about 103 calories and 4 grams of fiber and provides 438% of the RDA for vitamin A and 37% of the RDA for vitamin C. Cook the same way you'd cook a regular potato.
Toast Nuts & Coconut
Did you know that you can toast nuts and shredded coconut in your microwave? It's true! And toasting them in your microwave takes only a fourth of the time that it takes to toast them in your oven. Toasting nuts and shredded coconut intensifies their flavor. Add toasted nuts and coconut to your cereals, salads or rice pilafs.
To toast, spread the nuts or coconut out evenly on a microwave-safe plate. Cook for approximately two to three minutes, stopping and stirring every minute.
So go ahead--use your microwave for more than just defrosting meat or making popcorn. Endless healthy possibilities await.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.