Looking for ways for you and your family to be healthier? One of the best things you can do is spend more time in the kitchen. When you cook your own meals, you have complete control over what—and how much—you eat. Cooking at home also saves you money. Eating out is expensive! And there’s a reason those extra-large restaurant portions taste so good: They’re chock-full of calories, sodium, sugar and saturated fat.
According to “A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States,” adults today consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did in 1985, portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last 40 years and Americans eat out much more than they used to.
The result: Today, nearly two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, which leads to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.
We know. You’re busy. You don’t have TIME to cook. You don’t know HOW to cook. Your children are picky eaters. These are all valid reasons to approach cooking with trepidation. However, you can’t afford not to cook.
Chronic diseases lower your quality of life, cause you to miss time away from work, school and leisure activities and are quite costly. Cooking at home is an important way to help you stay healthy.
If cooking at home is new to you, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Learn to plan meals. Plan ahead to avoid last-minute worries about what to cook for dinner or the need to grab fast food on your lunch break. Find a handful of easy, go-to meals that your family enjoys, and build your week around them. Make extras to pack for lunch and freeze leftovers for another meal.
A healthy meal includes selections from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, and limit added salt, sugar, alcohol and saturated or trans fats.
Be an efficient shopper. Make a grocery list that includes regular purchases, and keep it handy so you can note when you run out of staples. A list allows you to quickly get the items you need and reduces the likelihood you’ll forget an important ingredient. Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry! You’re more likely to make unhealthy impulse purchases.
Learn to read food labels. Reading food labels will tell you how many calories you’re consuming and if the food has nutrients you want more of, or too many ingredients you want less of, such as added salt or sugar.
Cook together. We all know that taking action to stay healthy doesn’t start or stop at a certain age. Everyone can benefit from making good choices when it comes to health. And what better way to stay well than to involve the whole family in meal preparation?
Try meal kits. Many people enjoy the convenience and variety of ordering meal kits that come delivered to your door and include healthy recipes, easy instructions, and less prep work.
Use local resources to educate yourself on nutrition and cooking classes. Many hospitals offer the services of dietitians and cooking seminars to help you learn techniques for making healthy meals at home.
Make small changes to start. Set yourself up for success by making small changes one at a time. For example, add one serving of vegetables to every meal, try a new cooking technique (roasting vegetables brings out their rich flavor, for example), substitute whole-wheat pasta in your favorite recipe or swap out meat once a week for a plant-based protein, such as beans.
Healthy Meals at a Glance
Includes selections from each of the five food groups:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Vary protein sources daily
Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated & trans fats
Five Reasons to Eat at Home
- Save money
- Healthier diet
- Know and control what ingredients you are eating
- Reduce temptations
- Increase family time
By Eating at Home, You Can:
- Control portion sizes
- Consume less:
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