10 powerful steps toward improving your daily diet for energy, balance and weight loss
Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, eliminating pre-packaged foods from your diet is the best place to start. And one major factor in transforming your diet is doing more cooking at home. For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation. And believe it or not, when done right, cooking can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were ;) , try these helpful tips to streamline the process. You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache. Here’s how:
- Keep it simple. Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner. Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups. Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch followed by a bean and green sauté over brown rice all give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
- Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less. Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good. Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
- Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success. Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
- Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans with listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.
- Group complementary objects. If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access. For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
- Set up to streamline. Whether you’re working from a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time. Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
- Grouping tasks saves time. Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan. Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously, store prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them to avoid more cleanup. You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
- Prepare ahead. Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag. Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner. Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
- Skip unnecessary steps. Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, nor does garlic that will be used in a press. Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish- no cutting board required. Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
- Enlist a friend. Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips. This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.
This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine. Then add on from there. Gradually adopting new habits will not only help to refine your palette to enjoy less processed foods more, you’ll find preparing them much easier too. So choose your favorite, add it to your to-do list and take the first step towards healthy eating today!
Subscribe to my Health, Happiness and Vitality e-Newsletter