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I’ve been really excited about food prep lately, huh?

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Here’s the reason… Advanced food prep means less dishes, better meals, and more free time during the week.  Win, win, win.

 

I’ve been asked to write a little bit about steaming and reheating greens.  I always use this method to steam my greens. 

I’ve just been doing it in bigger batches and putting the leftovers in a Tupperware in the fridge.  Does it keep well?  I think so.  It’s not the freshest of fresh, but if my options are pre-make a bunch of greens and actually end up eating them throughout the week or living on peanut butter sandwiches, I lean towards food prep.

 

To reheat, I just microwave.  This begs the question… Does microwaving kill nutrients?  I always believed this, but it turns out that it’s more urban legend than fact.  Check out this NY Times article about the topic.

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To summarize…

 

  • Cooking any vegetable in any way destroys vitamins and nutrients in food – it’s the trade-off for getting it nice and warm.
  • Microwaves are generally less ‘destructive’ than ovens because the heat is lower and the cooking time is shorter.
  • Adding water to veggies, no matter what the cooking method, increases nutrient loss because the nutrients are leached into the water, which the chef then pours down the drain.  Steaming or roasting the veggies maintains more nutrients in comparison.

 

Interesting, huh? 

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Maybe I should try putting my greens in my smoothies every now and then.  Raw green power.

 

Lunch:

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Bulked up with greens!

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A peek into my daily life… this is how I eat most of my breakfasts and lunches these days.  Standing up at the kitchen aisle, one hand on the fork, the other wrapped around Henry, who has taken a suddenly liking to the pureed pouches of baby food <— best invention ever.

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Another microwave tale that I heard fairly frequently growing up:  standing in front of the microwave while it cooks will pummel me with radioactive waves (or whatever).  Here’s the truth…

{ 43 comments }

 

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  • Sarah January 31, 2013, 1:38 pm

    I work at a hospital and learned from the nutrition folks here that one great way to preserve the nutrients leached out into the water from cooked veggies is to reserve the veggie water (that nice green liquid after steaming spinach, for example) and then use it to cook your rice or other grain. Then, it’s absorbed back into your food! Cool, huh?

    Reply
    • Caitlin January 31, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Very cool!!

      Reply
  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action January 31, 2013, 1:38 pm

    I’m not a big microwave fan. Mostly because of the stories you hear.

    My friend’s parents heard this one story and re-created it. If you take 10 plants, and boil water on the stove, let it cool, and give that water to 5 plants, and boil water in the microwave, let it cool, and give the microwaved water to 5 plants, the plants that get the microwaved water will DIE within 2 weeks. My friend was telling me about this, and telling me how his parents read this, didn’t believe it and therefore re-created the situation, and had all their microwaved plants die.

    About 2 weeks after hearing that story, my microwave broke, so I just never replaced it. My boyfriend and I have been microwaveless for almost 6 months now, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it. But I do use a microwave at work every day to heat up my lunch leftovers.

    Reply
  • KT January 31, 2013, 1:45 pm

    It’s interesting that you mentioned the pureed baby food pouches because an article about them just popped up in my reader from NPR’s food blog. I know Henry isn’t running yet, like some of the children cited in the article, but I thought you might want to look at this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/01/31/170667837/oh-baby-squeezable-snacks-might-be-tough-on-the-teeth?ft=1&f=139941248

    I thought maybe you had heard it since you listen to NPR so much!

    Reply
    • DadHTP January 31, 2013, 2:12 pm

      haha – teeth? No teeth!

      Reply
      • KT January 31, 2013, 8:49 pm

        He doesn’t necessarily need to have teeth in order for them to be harmful. See Amanda’s comment below.

        Reply
  • Mandy @ Eat Pray Grow January 31, 2013, 1:50 pm

    That makes sense! I think I falsely imagine my microwave as some sort of nuclear reactor/magic wizard that mysteriously heats my food, when really, it’s just vibrating the water molecules. I think having a good amount of raw veggies (salads, smoothies, juice, crudités) in your diet would offset nutrient loss by cooking.

    Reply
  • Katrina January 31, 2013, 1:59 pm

    As kids, we loved to watch the microwave. My mother used to make us stand an arm distance away from the microwave when it was on. Which is hilarious because how short are little kids’ arms? I wish we had a picture of us all standing an “arm-length” away in front of the microwave. One doesn’t exist, of course, because my mother found it neither cute nor funny.

    Reply
  • Erin January 31, 2013, 2:07 pm

    H has the prettiest eyes! My 7 month old loves to suck the purees right out of the pouch. Messy but adorable!

    Reply
  • Emily January 31, 2013, 2:12 pm

    I prefer fresh veggies, but food prep is definitely the way to go for a busy week! Henry looks so cute in that picture :)

    Reply
  • Erica January 31, 2013, 2:21 pm

    I used to think that about the radioactive waves too! And Henry is adorable – he’s gonna be a heart breaker with those big blue eyes!

    Reply
  • Presley @ Run Pretty January 31, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Love this! I worked at a daycare where a mother refused to have her child’s food microwaved. Not a big deal, because we didn’t do that anyway. However, she preached and preached about how terrible microwaves were. Kind of annoying…

    Reply
  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 31, 2013, 2:42 pm

    WHEW! I was worried reading the title but I’m so glad to hear that microwaving isn’t all bad, seeing as that’s how I cook a lot of my veggies… haha

    Reply
  • Sharisse January 31, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information! I don’t love using my microwave, but it is a necessity at times. I try to avoid it when I can or have the time. Something I have never gotten used to is microwaving water for tea. I ALWAYS have to use my kettle. It feels “right” and I think the water is better for some odd reason!

    Reply
  • Julia January 31, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Great post! I know that cooking vegetables kills some of the nutrients but sometimes you just want to eat them warm! It is good to know that microwaving them isn’t the end of the world though! And…I also eat a lot of my meals like you do! Once a baby/toddler enters your house there are very few relaxing, sit down meals!!

    Reply
  • Angela January 31, 2013, 3:08 pm

    I’ve heard both those myths and believed them a lot of my life! So crazy.

    Reply
  • Amanda January 31, 2013, 3:28 pm

    To each her own. We haven’t had a microwave for 4 years and don’t miss it. Not worth the controversy, since we have an oven that roasts veggies/greens. (Although, using microwaves are still much better than food served through windows!)

    Those “facts” from the FDA are from 2006/7. I don’t really consider FDA studies as “facts” either. The FDA does not always put consumer interests first (not labeling GMO foods, etc), it’s a political organization. I’d keep researching and look at independent or other scientific studies and then decide. Just because it’s the mainstream doesn’t mean it’s the facts. Plus, microwaving your food in plastic containers does leach toxins into the food. Since you steam so many of your greens, why not invest in an actual veggie steamer to retain more nutrients if that’s in question? We love our steamer!

    My baby loves the navy bean, zucchini and green bean pouch. But the other day, he tried to put the cap in his mouth before I could get it away from him and it cut his sweet baby gums – there was blood :( Doh.

    Reply
    • Meshell January 31, 2013, 4:19 pm

      This this this! I don’t trust the FDA to keep my interests in concern. Their interest is in protecting food and drug business by lowering liability, not ensuring the continued health of Americans. And if they aren’t, then they are a huge failure in research.

      I still occasionally microwave out of laziness at my current pad, however I usually opt to take the extra time to reheat something in the oven. Or you can try the stove! I just put the leftovers in a low heat pan, drizzle a little water over it, and cover.

      Reply
      • Jess February 1, 2013, 1:18 pm

        I don’t trust the FDA either! I second (and third) the beliefs of Amanda and Meshell – our microwave never gets used…

        Reply
        • Kim February 3, 2013, 2:40 am

          Agree to all of these statements! We don’t use our microwave at all and haven’t for years – it’s built into our kitchen and we forget that it’s there.

          If you ARE going to microwave, please don’t do it in plastic.

          Reply
  • Susan January 31, 2013, 3:51 pm

    Have you ever thought of using a steamer basket? The only water involved is in the bottom of the pan and never touches the veggies, so they don’t lose nutrients. I steam broccoli 2-3 times a week and it only takes about 7 minutes. I sautee spinach in a tiny bit of olive oil with garlic

    Reply
  • kaitlin January 31, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Cute boy!

    And re: microwaves, some research came out about a year and a half ago showing that pregnant women who have increased exposure to magnetic fields (such as those found in microwaves + hairdryers) have a higher risk of having a baby born with asthma.

    SO! It’s not so black and white after all :)

    Reply
  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More January 31, 2013, 4:01 pm

    I have some adult friends who love those baby food pouches too…

    Reply
  • Sara @ fitcupcaker January 31, 2013, 4:34 pm

    very interesting facts :) I always use my microwave because I am always eating leftovers!

    Reply
  • Hope January 31, 2013, 4:46 pm

    I love those pouches! My son is 14 months old and still loves them. Every morning he has one of the packets that has fruit, oatmeal and quinoa. It’s perfect for busy mornings.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth January 31, 2013, 5:18 pm

    I have my degree in nutrition and I’m in a training program to get my RD and had to put my two cents in. “Cooking any vegetable in any way destroys vitamins and nutrients in food” is not necessarily true; like the article says, it depends on cooking time and temperature. Methods like blanching and steaming rarely leach off as many nutrients as boiling. Also, some nutrients such as beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A) actually becomes BETETR absorbed in the body through cooking. Check out this abstract from the National Institute of Health :)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9567003

    Reply
    • Elizabeth January 31, 2013, 6:46 pm

      she’s totally right – some vitamins become MORE bioavailable when you cook the food. Lycopene is another example. Phytates and oxalates, (which can block some vitamin absorption) can also be somewhat inactivated by cooking, so there’s another reason why cooking can be good. And at the end of the day… eating vegetables with nutrient loss is better than eating no vegetables!

      Reply
  • Lauren January 31, 2013, 6:24 pm

    Tomatoes are healthier when cooked… and some vegetables have natural carcinogens that are destroyed during cooking (like generic white mushrooms and celery). Microwaves also aren’t radioactive in any sense of the word, and they definitely can’t hurt you!

    Reply
  • Jenna January 31, 2013, 7:48 pm

    Very interesting. I definitely try to eat my veggies raw as much as possible.

    Reply
  • Karen @ Runner Girl Eats January 31, 2013, 7:55 pm

    Luckily I prefer my veggies fresh, except broccoli. That has to be steamed or roasted :)

    Reply
  • Lauren @ Eat Like An Elephant January 31, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Thanks for debunking the microwave myth! My mom always told me growing up not to stand in front of the microwave and I think at this point it’s so ingrained in me I’ll continue to step away just because :)

    Reply
  • Ashley January 31, 2013, 9:08 pm

    I feel like what you are call steaming is sauteeing! Steaming indicates the food is heated by steam and a steamer is used so that your food doesn’t sit in the water. If you’re heating in a pan on the stovetop, it’s sauteeing.

    Reply
  • Amber K January 31, 2013, 9:18 pm

    Some fruits/veggies are better raw, some are better cooked. All I know is what my own body can handle. Most vegetables I can’t digest unless they are at the very least, steamed. I have horrible pain eating some of them raw. I might get more nutrients that way, but not if I can’t even digest them!

    Reply
  • Amber January 31, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Thought about this after I ate dinner tonight – veggies and tempeh boiled in a wok. So maybe I lost some nutrients, but hey, at least I had a ton of veggies! Amiright??

    Reply
  • ann January 31, 2013, 11:34 pm

    We use the pouches, but use the spoons that attach directly to the pouch. So convenient. And safer.

    Reply
  • Sarah February 1, 2013, 5:22 am

    This is a good post. The thing most people don’t seem to fathom is that LIGHT and HEAT are also forms of *gasp*… radiation. Radiant heat is what we usually use to heat food. The only difference is the wavelength, and microwaves just happen to cause water molecules to rapidly vibrate, so the food heats up super quick. Its not like you are eating radiation or ‘radiating’ yourself (although you do that my living in the world every day anyway…) Nice debunking of a myth Caitlyn :)

    Reply
  • Natalie February 1, 2013, 9:05 am

    Thanks for this post. I showed it to some of my coworkers and they laughed because of my stance on microwaves. I’m generally neurotic about many things. But my number one neurosis is microwaves. I hate them and I will not use them. So I don’t have one at home and I won’t use the one at work. I stick everything in the toaster oven. I’m 28 and my family and friends think in a crazy old biddy because I’m afraid of the microwave. Lol. No article and no organization can tell me that it’s safe to cook your food that fast. Anyway thanks for this post. I love to see that other people think about this as well.

    Reply
  • lena February 1, 2013, 11:47 am

    Cooking increases the content of some nutrients, including lycopene, which is found in tomatoes. The carotenoids in carrots also increase with cooking, but the amount of polyphenols decreases. Some vegetables maintain nutrients better than others during boiling. For example, carrots, savoy cabbage and spinach lost more than half of their folate content after eight minutes of boiling, while broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower only lost about 25 percent of their folate content, according to a study published in the “Czech Journal of Food Science” in October 2007.

    Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/538030-are-nutrients-likely-to-be-lost-when-vegetables-are-cooked-in-a-large-amount-of-water/#ixzz2JfP4IAXh

    Reply
  • Breanne February 1, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Interestingly, I just saw an article about this on Greatist too – they also voted for the microwave! http://greatist.com/health/healthy-cooking-methods/

    Reply
  • kim@hungryhealthygirl February 15, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I’m always questioning whether or not I should be heating my veggies in the microwave. Thanks for all of the clarification….great post!!

    Reply
  • Cornelius February 17, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Regarding microwaves, I think it is interesting to note how superstitious and fearful we can be regarding technology. Though we scoff at primitives who think having their picture taken endangers their soul, as soon as some crank says microwaving is bad, we embrace his words with a feeling that is almost one of relief: “I KNEW microwaving must be bad, it is just TOO easy!”

    In fact, I think we are entirely too pessimistic as a culture. We are all too willing to believe that almost anything is bad for us, if someone just says so. “Oh, that’s bad too? Well, it figures. Guess I can’t eat that anymore, either.”

    I wish more people would learn to do actual research, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon and in turn spreading the misinformation they’ve received, without even questioning it.

    But then, I guess, they would no longer be “normal” people. By the way, if you are not already “hip,” just for fun google dihydrogen monoxide. :)

    Reply

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