When it comes to changing your eating habits, it’s not just about watching what you eat. It’s also about how the foods you eat are prepared.

Having a healthy diet consists of many factors, says Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver. It consists of adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet, lowering your salt intake, eliminating bad carbohydrates, as well as limiting alcohol. It’s also about decreasing your fat consumption, which can be done by eating baked foods instead of foods that are fried.

French fries, for example, are fried foods, and many fast food restaurants cook their foods using partially hydrogenated oil, oxidized oils, or trans fats – whether it’s deep frying or stir frying. While partially hydrogenated oil, oxidized oil and trans fats are much cheaper to produce and have a much longer shelf life, they’re not healthy, and if you consume too much of them they can be detrimental to your health over time. Not only can these oils and fats weaken the immune system, but they can also cause damage to the lungs and kidneys, cause inflammation, as well as put you at risk of developing diabetes, having a stroke, or even a heart attack. Some studies have also suggested that individuals who consume more fried foods are at a higher risk of developing colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Ali Ghahary says that by eliminating fried foods from your diet, you’re giving yourself an overall better quality of life.

If you struggle with your weight and/or are trying to lose weight, have diabetes, or simply want to eat healthier, baking is the cooking method best suited for you. Unlike foods that are fried, baking (also referred to as roasting) requires very little oil – sometimes none at all. If a particular recipe you’re following does call for oil, make sure you opt for one that’s healthy, such as olive oil or coconut oil. You can bake things like meat, poultry, fish, and even vegetables. Prior to baking these foods, you can marinate them with your favourite herbs, sauces (just make sure these are homemade and healthy!) or spices for some added flavour. You should also try to preserve the nutritional content of these foods by cooking them at a lower temperature. When dining out, many restaurants across Vancouver also have the option of being able to bake certain foods rather than fry them; just ask your server prior to ordering.

To help plan your meal, Dr. Ali Ghahary has put together some healthy grocery shopping tips, which can be found @DrAliGhahary today.