These days, who has time to come home and cook a four course cuisine? We need good ‘ole fashioned simple cooking, and with all of the studies out there that tell us that living on fast food is killing us and is increasing our weight, our cholesterol levels and lowering our life expectancy, we already know that we shouldn’t be making dinner plan in the drive through line!
Not to mention, some of us “home cooks” a lot of the time feel that we have to cook something pre-packaged because we don’t have time to cook all those healthy foods that the experts tell us we need, right? Or we feel like we may not be that great of a cook? Isn’t there a way for us to do simple cooking at home with healthy ingredients, without feeling overwhelmed? Here are some easy steps to get you on the right track to healthier eating and learning to be a great cook along the way:
* Plan ahead for the nights that you already know you will be late or extra busy by keeping a few “ready to go” items in the freezer: vegetables (for quick boil), ravioli’s (you can boil them and top with spaghetti sauce and add a salad (already from the bag)… Or you can have your healthy meals pre-made and then in the freezer in personal portions for later.
* Keep “basic” staples in the pantry and “on hand”. Such as whole wheat/grain pasta or rice, cans of vegetables, beans, soups, etc. At least it could be a “go to” when you’re in a hurry and would be healthy sides or main dishes to keep you away from the phone and making that call to the pizza guy.
* Keep an on hand, easy to follow cook book. A lot of these cook books will offer quick and easy meals for simple cooking that will already use healthier ingredients. Or you can find a recipe you like and easily substitute one or two of the ingredients for something healthier. Such as swapping butter for a cholesterol free spread, swapping vegetable oil for safflower oil used, whole grain pasta instead of standard, etc.
* Stock your refrigerator and pantry with the “healthier alternatives”. You can usually find on websites or other searches, what equivalent or healthier substitutions would be for standard ingredients such as vegetable oil, butter, sugar, etc and if you already have them on hand, you will go to those anyway.
* One rule of thumb for me has been what I was taught as a child… You have to have color on your plate. Try to have the largest portion on your plate being vegetables (probably the ones you already had on stand by for this unplanned dinner)… and the smallest portion being the meats, proteins and the complex carbs. Besides, vegetables are so much quicker to cook than the meats or the breads.
* Keep fruit on hand for snacks or desserts… They are already naturally sweet, healthier than that chocolate cheesecake we’ve all been thinking about wanting, and very quick.
These are just a few tips for simple cooking and trying to eat better. Just remember, have healthy foods stocked automatically in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, so that those are the items available to you in a quick grab. These foods should fit with your busy life and be simple. Try to make it a point to throw those items in your grocery cart, instead of the unhealthy snacks that we always want to grab in a rush. And don’t be overwhelmed with how to cook healthier, because there is help out there to get you started, even if it’s making a healthier grocery list to start with… Low or non/fat dairy products, more fruits & vegetables and “smart” fats. One last way to help you on the right track… smaller portions.
These were just a few examples of easy and quick ways to simple cooking and eating healthier, even in a rush. Don’t be intimidated, do these little things a little more at a time and make it habit and the norm.
Make conscious food decisions rather than grabbing for what is most convenient. Make sure it is something delicious so that you can enjoy eating it and feel better about the changes.