Cook more often at home
Over the last few decades, Americans have been eating out more and cooking at home less often. When you cook at home, you can often make better choices about what and how much you eat and drink than you do when eating out. Cooking can also be a fun activity and a way for you to spend time with family and friends.
When cooking remember to focus on foods you need, eat fewer empty calories, and decrease portion sizes. Many recipes include calorie content per serving. Compare calorie content and choose meals that fit within your daily calorie needs. If cooking for a family, you may each have different calorie needs. You can still cook the same nutritious foods, but vary the portion sizes. For example, an active adolescent male can still eat the same foods as his five-year-old sister, he will just eat more.
- If you don't usually cook, start gradually. Make it a goal to cook once a week and work up to cooking more often.
- A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. Think about how you can adjust the portions on your plate to get more of what you need without too many calories. And don't forget dairy – make it the beverage with your meal or add fat-free or low-fat dairy products to your plate. You don't have to eat from every food group at each meal, but thinking about the food groups can help you build a healthy meal. For more information on building a healthy meal, check out these 10 tips.
- Planning ahead can help you make better food choices. Keep healthy staples on hand, such as dried fruit, whole wheat pasta, "no-salt-added" canned vegetables, and frozen seafood.
- Experiment with healthy recipes and look for ways to make your favorite recipes healthier. For example, use the low-fat or reduced-fat version of dairy products like cheese and milk or replace sour-cream with low-fat or fat-free yogurt. Also use spices and herbs to add more flavor instead of adding salt or fat.
- To help manage how much you eat, start by putting a small portion of food on your plate, and only eat seconds if still hungry.
Concerned about cooking more often at home? Here are some common "stumbling blocks" and ideas to help you overcome these barriers:
"I'm tired of being the only one that cooks."
Make cooking a family event. Get your children involved with the prep work. This will help to teach them about healthy eating, and it also serves as a way for you to spend time with your children. Have an occasional potluck. Invite friends over and have everyone bring their favorite healthy dish.
"I don't have time to cook a big meal every night; it is easier to just order out."
Cooking does take time, but there are several things that you can do to make it easier to cook at home. Try prepping dishes the night before, or the morning of; prepping the salad or the side dish can help save time after work. Also try cooking a big meal on Sunday and then eating it as leftovers and freezing extras. Buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can also save prep time.
"My family prefers to eat out; when I cook at home, they complain."
Changing a family pattern is difficult at first. Start by eating one more meal at home each week than you normally do. You may save calories and money! To mix things up, try a new recipe. It'll help keep your family excited about dinner at home.