I offer here a revision of the 2011 post “Cooking to Eat More Sanely”, with an updated resource list. Preparing our own food helps weight and sane eating in countless ways that are worth revisiting….
It would certainly be great to adopt all those habits that lead to better weight loss and health. But here’s one to tackle that you might underestimate in your search for diet solutions. It’s simple: Cook more often.
Cooking can check weight and improve health even if you’re not an expert chef. When we cook at home, we avoid the added salt, sugar, and fats in take-out, fast-food, or restaurant fare. We can control portions better. We can boost the vegetables, shrink the starches, make more of those foods we don’t gorge on. We can make extras for dinner to bring for lunch and thereby avoid the cafeteria. We can get used to, and develop preferences for, real fresh foods that are good for us and our waistlines.
Two myths can stand in the way of our cooking more:
*it takes too long. Research has shown that heating and setting up a take-out dinner for the family only saves a few minutes over a simple home-cooked meal.
*you have to be a good cook (and like it). Just about anyone can put together some of the simple combinations discussed here. Even if you don’t know how to perform very simple cooking operations, these are not hard to learn.
Today, limited ingredient cookbooks have become popular. They appeal to both the too-busy and don’t-know-how-to groups. Look through a few of these and choose one to try. Recipes limited to 5 ingredients (a common number for these publications) are almost always easy and quick to assemble. Some of the work, like vegetable-chopping, can even be done in advance. For example, some find it helpful to chop vegetables for snacks and for recipes right after returning from the supermarket, or in some other time slot set aside for the purpose.
Also, you can aim for meals that yield enough for two dinners, or two dinners and lunches, to minimize actual cooking time. Vegetarian casseroles, soups, and stews lend themselves well to this.
Even easier than 5-ingredient cookbooks are the “101 Ways….” articles by Mark Bittman, now in the New York Times articles archives. Bittman lists hundreds of quick meals of various types. Each is described in a single sentence. And that’s all the information you’ll need to assemble the dish.
You can develop a repertoire of favorite recipes you find easy and quick to make. Then you can recycle them every month or so. Start from wherever you are. If you only cook one meal a week now, think of increasing it to two or three, and so on. Any increase in home-cooked dinners, and work lunches brought from home, can bolster your weight and health goals.
Bittman, Mark, “101 Fast Recipes”, “101 Fast Recipes for Inspired Picnics”, and others. New York Times (go to www.nytimes.com/archives) to search for these articles. They are also compiled in his book Quick and Easy Recipes From the New York Times.
“Finding the Best Way to Cook All Those Vegetables,” by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times, May 20, 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/health/nutrition/20well.html?_r=0
Eat Sanely: Get Off the Diet Roller Coaster for Good, Chapter 5, offers more ideas on incorporating home meals into your life tgig-beta.com/eatsanely.com/order
Cooking Light magazine: On simple cooking techniques, On simple menu planning, On incorporating and cooking more fish and seafood