By Peggy Korody, RD, CLT
Often people ask me “what is the one thing I can do to better my diet?” Although there is not just one thing, I often ask how many times a week do you eat out? According to the 2012 Zagat survey, people stated that they eat out or take-out food 45 percent of the time. Where am I going with this? If there is one thing you can change to eat more healthful, that would be to cook at home.
Restaurants meals are often high calorie, high fat, and high sodium plus the portion size is out of control. Restaurants that are required to label their calorie content may do so deceptively, meaning that they will list the calories per serving, but in parenthesis you will see a number, which is the amount of servings for that dish, therefore the dish you were served actually feed three-four people, not one. Also, there are a lot of menu items stating “500 calories or less”, but when 350-plus of those calories are from fat that does not make it a good menu choice. There is more to look at other than calories.
Once again, my response is to cook at home more often. And yes, I do get a lot of resistance such as, “too expensive for one person,” “too time consuming,” “I don’t know how to cook,” etc. Well, one has to make a decision of priorities — is eating healthy important to you and your family, or is just eating important? If eating healthy was your answer let me share some tips to make cooking at home a little easier.
KISS – Keep It Short & Simple. According to Wikipedia “the KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex.” Don’t try to be a “gourmet” cook on busy evenings. Stick to five or less ingredients for your main entrée and make the side dishes easy.
•Stir-fry: You use one pan for all the components, veggies, protein, and starch. The grocery stores have sliced and diced veggies, or visit the salad bar and pick up the sliced items you want in your stir-fry. You can purchase frozen, cooked rice in the freezer section so all you are left with is a protein of choice. You can make extra portions for leftovers for another meal later in the week, or my favorite thing is leftovers for lunch the next day.
•Roast a chicken (or if really pressed for time pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store): It is so easy to roast a chicken. I often stick some “stuff” (lemon halves, mixture of veggies and herbs, etc.) in the cavity, rub the bird with a little oil, and seasoning then stick it in the oven, 350° for 60-90 minutes, depending on size. If you have a small family you can use this for at least two meals. First day, serve as a main dish with some roasted or mashed potatoes, a steamed veggie and salad (which you can also just buy in a bag, just add some salad dressing). Day two – chop leftover chicken and make a “Big” salad with some warm bread for dinner, or my sons favorite — tacos, and my favorite, chicken soup.
•Pasta night: Purchase a pasta sauce (read the label, check for low-sodium, low-fat), enhance the sauce by cooking up some ground meat of choice, and/or sauté some veggies or mushrooms to add to the sauce. Cook some noodles of choice, so many types to choose from these days. I like quinoa. Serve a salad and you have a meal. If you cook your own pasta sauce, make a large batch, and freeze the extra in containers for future meals.
•Helpers: If you have children get them involved. Young ones could rinse the veggies, a little older could help with setting the table, and older children can help with chopping and slicing of the veggies. No kids? Get a friend involved. Maybe meet once a week, cook a few dishes, package and have your food for the week. You will have fun visiting and making some healthy food at the same time!
One more thing to think of when cooking at home, know your portion size. For a quick reminder visit my website (RD4Health.com) and read my article from April 2011 on “Portion Distortion and Healthy Tips for Eating Out.”
Yes, healthy eating requires cooking at home, and by cooking at home I mean using fresh ingredients, not popping a frozen dinner in the microwave. Your health is your future, and you should do everything you can as early as possible to ensure you have a very long future. A benefit I have received by living this way is that my boys both know how to cook. On those few days when I come home just exhausted, I can just look at my older son and he’ll say “OK, so you want me to cook tonight!” — I love it!
Stay tuned to my website in early 2013 (RD4Health.com). I’ll be adding cooking tips and videos for some quick cooking techniques. So as you close out 2012 and look at the New Year, how about making a commitment to your health and consider cooking at home, at least a few nights per week? To your health.
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Peggy Korody is a registered dietitian and owner of RD4Health Nutrition Counseling, LLC in Rancho Santa Fe. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist — Helping people who suffer with food sensitivities which can lead to IBS, Migraines, Fibromyalgia, and other inflammatory conditions. Her first cookbook, “Little Hands in the Kitchen” is available on her website. For more information on services offered, visit RD4Health.com or email pkorody@RD4Health.com, 858-401-9936.