Cook Dinner More Often

  • Cooking at home means you get to control your ingredients and portion sizes while saving money.
  • Those who frequently cook at home tend to consume fewer calories and eat less added sugars, refined carbs, and bad fats—all key to making a healthier self.
  • 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’s Inside

What’s IN

  • If you prepped your meals earlier in the week and reheated them for dinner, that still counts! It’s about home-cooked dinners. Home-cooked leftovers count too!
  • Shortcuts 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.

What’s OUT

  • 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 restaurants or take out.

Why This Is A Good Idea

Cooking at home means you get to control your ingredients and portion sizes. Those who frequently cook at home tend to consume fewer calories and eat less added sugars, refined carbs, and bad fats—all key to making a healthier self. Not only that, but home cooks tend to eat fewer calories on the occasions that they do eat out, having created healthier habits by cooking. Finally, cooking saves money — it’s almost (five times more expensive) [https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/#7a6e1a2035e5] to order from a restaurant than to cook at home!

Basic Tips

  • 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 fancy 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 main dish 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 makes 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 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 short on time and need a simple option.
  • Buy ingredients that will make cooking easier, like pre-chopped vegetables, canned or pouch tuna, canned beans, boxed broths, spice mixes, and pre-marinated selections 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!
  • Use a pressure cooker, if you have one – you can have fabulous soups and stews ready in just minutes. An Instapot is a great option if space is tight.
  • Need inspiration? Check out popular recipe collections like allrecipes.com or epicurious.com where you can search by ingredient, cuisine, time, and other filters. You can even save your favorite recipes to come back to later!
  • Download searchable recipe apps to your smartphone, like Tasty, Food Network in the Kitchen, and Yummly.
  • Looking for creative whole foods, plant-based recipes? Check out Forks Over Knives, VegNews, and The Simple Vegan blog.

Shopping List

  • 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. Ask for lean cuts and have them sliced thin; these may cook quite quickly depending what cuts you buy. Here’s our favorite fool-proof chicken breast cooking method.
  • A wild-caught, low-mercury fish like Alaskan salmon is delicious and high in inflammation-busting omega-3 fatty acids. 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.
  • Skip the canned soup but DO go for canned tuna, sardines, and beans.
  • Whole-grain or bean-based pasta and boxed broth are must-haves in your pantry.
  • The frozen section will provide you with veggies to keep on hand for when you’re in a pinch. Buy plain frozen vegetables with no other ingredients added.
  • 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.

Recipes

The Simplest Bean Burgers by Mark Bittman The Simplest Bean Burgers

Butternut Squash, Kale, & Quinoa Stew by Love and Lemons Butternut Squash, Kale, & Quinoa Stew

Parslied Brown Rice Pilaf by Cooking Light Parslied Brown Rice Pilaf

Hummus & Grilled Vegetable Wrap by Food Network Hummus & Grilled Vegetable Wrap

Vegetarian Burrito Bowls by Healthy Seasonal Recipes Vegetarian Burrito Bowls

Fresh Vegetable Soup with Pistou by JenniferEmilson Fresh Vegetable Soup with Pistou

Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry by Delish.com Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

Slow Cooker Ratatouille by Allrecipes.com Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Yam Chickpea Spinach Curry by Forks Over Knives Yam Chickpea Spinach Curry

Smart Things To Read And Watch

Note: Diet ID 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.