Healthy eating is not only about what foods to eat, which ingredients and raw materials to use, but it is also about cooking techniques. I'm listing out a few principles that I follow diligently at home and for my EthnicPalate catering initiative.
1) I don't prep or chop vegetables ahead of time. I know people who chop for a week and freeze the required veggies. But I believe that nutrition gets lost if veggies are chopped beforehand. I ALWAYS chop them just before I start to cook. This applies to my catering orders as well.
2) I make sprouts, peel small onions/garlic cloves and grate coconut all by myself. None of the store-bought peeled onions / packed sprouts for me. Hygiene is a very important factor that I can't take a chance with. Moreover, the freshness of the just-peeled shallots/garlic is completely lost. I'm perfectly okay to shed a few tears and peel the small onions, just before frying :-)
3) When I'm making salads, I chop the vegetables just when they are needed. If I'm offering salads in my EthnicPalate lunch menu, I start chopping the required veggies 30 minutes before I need to deliver them. I plan my time accordingly in order to serve a fresh, juicy salad.
3) During my childhood, we never had a fridge at home. Though the food at home was basic and simple, it was always prepared fresh. My parents/grandparents never followed the reheating / freeze-ahead practices of today. Having grown up in such an environment, I just cannot make sambhar/rasam/dal for a week, keep in the fridge, take out a small portion and reheat it. The food doesn't taste good when made this way. I had to politely decline a couple of orders when a neighbor requested me to prepare and refrigerate a meal for a few days since he was out of town on the day I had offered the menu. According to Ayurveda, cooked food has to be consumed within 3-4 hours. Beyond that, food turns toxic due to negative forces ("aama").
4) I invest around 2 hours in cooking on a daily basis, making 3 meals. Yes, it is an investment towards my health and that of my family members. I don't consider it as an expense/waste of time. I did outsource the work for a few years by hiring a cook. Given the control-oriented nature of mine, it gets very uncomfortable when the cook bunks unannounced, which happens a lot by the way. Most of the times, either the oil used would be too much or the quantity made would be excess for our small family of 3. So I decided to take charge of cooking completely and it has brought a lot of joy and freedom. I invest more time in cooking during weekends for my catering orders to serve fresh, healthy, home-cooked food to my neighbors.
5) Though I cook fresh food for most meals, I ensure the quantity I prepare is just right. I hate wasting food and I'm aware of the right quantity required for my family. So there's hardly any food being thrown out. I'm hesitant to put up a stall elsewhere to expand my food catering service, mainly because of the food that might get wasted due to unknown demand.
The underlying principle behind all this -
Let "convenience" not take a significant role in our lives that it interferes with our "health" (and environment)
Take time to cook fresh meals for yourself and for your family. It is worth the time and effort.