Learn to Love Your Kitchen
Welcome to week four of BlogHer's Inspiration to Fitness!
Katherine and I are very excited to be blogging every week to challenge you to make a positive change to your eating. If you missed week one, there’s plenty of time to get in on our healthy eating challenge. Just review our previous Inspiration to Fitness posts so you can get started today.
Week Four: Master Your Meals
This week, we’re going to help you make one of the most important life-changing behaviors of all—preparing more of your meals and snacks. Did you know that more than 50% of Americans’ food budget is spent on restaurant or take-out foods? Not only do you pay more for the supposed “convenience” of not cooking yourself, you also never really know how something was prepared and how many calories, saturated fat, sodium or added sugars the dish or snack provides.
While I’m a busy working woman who lived many years in NYC where everyone had a kitchen drawer devoted to take-out menus, I always made a habit of not eating out or ordering take-out. In fact, last year, I went for a month without eating any meal or snack out, meaning that I had bought the food and prepared what I was eating myself.
I did this little challenge myself because I hear from clients all the time who say, “I’m too busy to cook,” or “I travel so I have to eat out.” I travel too, but wherever I’ve been, there’s always a grocery store an easy drive or walk away and I hope on over to the store and buy the few things I need to piece together a meal. Granted, it’s not always a traditional-sounding meal, but with a few piece of fruit, some Greek yogurt and a whole-grain roll, you’ve can start piecing together meals and snacks that are a lot healthier (not to mention cheaper!) than what you’d get at a restaurant.
Your challenge this week is to start upping the number of meals and snacks that you make yourself. Snacks are easy as they should be primarily fruits, veggies, nuts, or other simple foods.
If you eat 5 times a day for 7 days a week, you have 35 eating opportunities each week. You should be in charge for at least 75% of the time or 26 eating occasions. That means you still have 9 opportunities where you might have to do a business dinner or just can’t get the energy to pull something together. Here’s some great tips to help ensure that you meet this goal:
Map out Your Dinners: Dinners require the most time and attention so sit down and plan out 4-5 dinners for the week. Home-cooked dinners are great because the leftovers can become a lunch tomorrow or later in the week. I usually cook on this cycle—3 nights cooking in a row, 1 night leftovers; then repeat.
Prep on Weekends: If you’re a busy professional or mom, do some food prep over the weekend when you have more time. Plan out a few meals and put the ingredients in the fridge ready to go.
Look for Two-fers: When cooking, always prepare for your current meal and repurpose some items for the next. For example, tonight I’ll make a carmelized onion and spinach frittata for dinner and I’ll make twice as many carmelized onions and use that in a flatbread pizza tomorrow night.
Have Emergency Meals on Hand: Even on the nights when I’ve traveled all day, am completely exhausted and can’t fathom cooking, I can walk into my kitchen, pull out a can of soup and a box or bag of frozen veggies and have dinner within a matter of minutes.
It’s actually easier and less time-consuming than figuring out which restaurant I’m going to stop at to pick something up. The point is, keep your kitchen well-stocked with emergency meals. For me, these include canned soups, bagged salads, 90-second rice packets and even cereal.
Eggs Make a Meal: There’s no shame in an egg-based dish for dinner. I routinely eat Frittatas, quiches and dinner salads with hard-boiled eggs as dinner. In fact, my family thinks it’s fun to have breakfast for dinner at least once a week.
Take a Cooking Class: If you’re just intimidated by cooking (and I know many women who are) take a cooking class. I have taken at least five different classes and with each one, I gain more skills and add to my recipe repertoire.
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By Kathy Benson