15 December 2015 Why We Should Find Time for Home Cooked Meals

In 2005-08, Americans consumed 32 percent of calories away from home. This is up from 18 percent in 1997-98. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are estimated to be approximately $709 billion annually or $1.9 billion daily. There are many reasons individuals obtain their food and drink away from home, including convenience and saving time. In addition, studies are finding that numerous individuals do not prepare foods in the home because they feel they lack cooking skills, think it will be more expensive and it takes too much of their time. One study showing that the same people who reported lack of time to cook at home were not concerned about the time they spent on the computer, watching television or using the cell phone.

So, we spend more time using electronics than cooking. What’s the problem, you ask? Well, it may be part of the reason we have a growing obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country. A review of studies showed eating meals away from home is positively linked with becoming overweight or obese. Other findings indicate that the odds of becoming overweight/obese are considerably higher when families report having at least one weekly meal away from home. Percent body fat and heart disease risk were considerably greater with weekly purchases of fast-food and take-out meals. Restaurant meals often have larger portions (so we get our money’s worth), have more saturated fat and more sodium, but are usually lower in fruits, vegetables, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Do you want to cook more often at home but feel a little unsure of yourself in the kitchen? Just get in there and have some fun! Turn on your favorite music and get cooking. Instead of feeling intimidated by the chefs on the cooking channels, you may want to get a cookbook, like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens, to help you learn cooking basics. Now, I won’t lie. You do need to do a little planning and organizing to make it happen. Start with a grocery list and a few simple recipes.

Here are some of my favorite tips for cooking healthy meals at home:

  1. Find a few recipes to cook each week. There are a ton of recipes out there on cyberspace. Go to sites with healthy recipes, such as www.eatingwell.com or www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov.
  2. Keep a collection of recipes in a computer file, recipe card file or notebook so it is easy to find them. Rate your recipes so you can remember which ones you enjoyed. Get rid of the ones you didn’t like.
  3. Do more time-intensive cooking on your days off. Make a double batch so you have another frozen meal already prepped.
  4. Use the crock pot and pressure cooker to make cooking easier and faster.
  5. For busy weeks, choose recipes that can do double duty. Grilled chicken can be used later in the week for chicken salad and for a chicken casserole. Freeze some for a later recipe. Have a marker on hand to label frozen containers with contents and date.
  6. When you chop peppers and onions, chop extra to freeze for later. You can also buy pre-washed and cut fresh veggies, or frozen diced onions and peppers for soups and casseroles.
  7. Keep a running grocery list on the kitchen counter so you can write on items needed. Stocking your kitchen based on the food groups can help you come up with simple healthy meals. A simple meal could consist of a microwaved sweet potato with cottage cheese, steamed broccoli and salsa. For dessert, have yogurt topped with frozen berries and nuts.
  8. If you are worried about food going bad, freeze items like breads, muffins, nuts and cheese. Frozen vegetables, fruits and whole grain rice are also great as they don’t perish quickly.
  9. Keep the pantry stocked with a variety of grains, such as whole grain rice, couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and polenta.

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Dining Out/Portion Size & Calories Meal Planning & Diets/"Plan, Shop, Prep, and Cook"

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