Cook Dinner More Often
”The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you have to have a what-the-hell attitude”_
What’s In & What’s Out
- If you prepped your meals earlier in the week and just heated them up for dinner, that still counts! It’s about eating home-cooked dinners.
- Leftovers count too!
- No frozen meals (but frozen chopped veggies are great).
- No canned soups. (Depending on the brand this can be a nutritious meal option, but doesn’t count as a home-cooked meal.)
- No take out.
- Obviously, if you eat at a restaurant you aren’t cooking at home…
- Short cuts are okay (like pre-marinated salmon) but then make a salad and some rice yourself.
- Assembling a meal counts as cooking! You don’t need to turn on a stove. So a big chopped salad, or a stacked sandwich are still meals prepped at home.
- If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track tomorrow.
Why This Is A Good Idea
Those who frequently cook at home consume fewer calories, and eat less added sugars, refined carbs and bad fats—all key to making a healthier self. Not only that, home cooks tend to eat fewer calories on the occasions that they do eat out, having created healthier habits by cooking themselves. In addition, people tend to eat home cooked meals together at the table, increasing your chances of spending quality with your friends and family.
Basic Tips and Hints
- Be sure to check in at dinner time each day. If you made dinner, check in by drawing a check mark. If you ate out or ordered in, use a free pass.
- What you cook doesn’t have to be fancy—no need to mimic a nice restaurant, or make the most Instagram-worthy plate. Keep it simple. Successful home cooking is about preparing simple ingredients to sustain and nourish you and your family.
- Home cooking doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Everyday meals should be straightforward, easy, and manageable: a protein that takes 15 minutes to prep and cook, a frozen vegetable simply sautéed with olive oil and spices, and a grain set to cook while you’re at work in the slow cooker is the perfect weeknight meal.
- If you’re short on time mid-week, make and freeze meals on Sundays for the week ahead. Soups, stews, casseroles, chili, spaghetti sauces with fresh veggies, and grains all freeze and reheat incredibly well.
- Prep ingredients ahead. Washing and chopping veggies, and putting them in bags in your fridge will turn cooking something nutritious into a quick task when you’re exhausted and need a simple option.
- Buy ingredients that will make cooking easier, like pre-chopped vegetables, canned tuna, canned beans, boxed broths, spice mixes, and pre-marinated proteins from the butcher/seafood counter.
- Buy frozen vegetables and save yourself the time it would take to wash and prep.
- Steam veggies in your microwave! There’s no reason why technology can’t help you out in the kitchen.
- Keep your kitchen stocked with basic non-perishable ingredients—canned beans, vegetable stock, whole grain pastas, frozen spinach and parmesan cheese can turn into a delicious and nutritious soup in less than half an hour.
- Use your slow cooker. Throw ingredients into the pot before work and let it do the cooking for you. Added perk—your house smells amazing when you get home!
- Start in the produce section to see what looks good. Broccoli, green beans, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, cauliflower, sweet potato, asparagus and onions all cook quickly and are delicious with minimal preparation. Olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper are all you need.
- Don’t forget your lettuce! Tossing greens with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper takes 20 seconds and makes for a delicious salad. And feel free to buy boxed, pre-washed greens. Fast and easy.
- Buy fruit for salads, salsas (fruit salsas are delicious with fish and meat) and dessert.
- If you’re an omnivore, get organic, antibiotic-free meats like chicken or pork from your butcher counter. They are lean and protein-packed, and can be cooked quite quickly depending what cuts you buy. Try boneless, skinless chicken thighs or a boneless pork chop (boneless cuts cook quickly). Here’s our favorite fool-proof chicken breast cooking method.
- A wild-caught, low-mercury fish like Alaskan salmon is delicious and quite good for you. If you’re in a pinch or need help in the flavor department, feel free to get the pre-seasoned/marinated kind, but make sure to ask about the ingredients in the seasoning.
- Don’t forget the bulk section—look for lentils, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and amaranth.
- Canned tuna, sardines, and beans keep well and have great protein.
- Whole-grain pasta and boxed broth are also must-haves in your pantry.
- The frozen section will provide you with veggies to keep on hand for when you’re in a pinch.
- Cheese or “cheese”! A firm salty cheese like Pecorino is a great one to keep in the fridge for garnishing pastas and soups. Or if you’re vegan, grab cashew cheese to top your eats.
Smart Things To Read And Watch
- Study suggests home cooking a key ingredient to good health
- Coursera’s The Case for Cooking (with Michael Pollan)
- Coursera’s Cooking: Sensible Substitutions
- Go Light When You Grab a Bite
- 4 reasons you should really learn to cook
- Michael Pollan’s Cooking FAQs
Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.