Research shows that cooking more meals at home encourages healthy eating, but many people feel they don’t have time to cook dinner during the week. If time (or lack of it) is what’s holding you back, here are a couple of time-saving tips for getting a jump-start on your meal. Dedicate some time during the weekend to plan your menu and chop all the veggies you will need for the coming week. If you need to pull a meal together quickly, frozen veggies are a good choice since all the chopping and peeling has been done for you.
Cleaning up after the meal can sometimes be just as time-consuming as the prep work. Save time on the dishes by making meals that can be cooked in one pot or skillet. For example: stir-fry strips of chicken breast or other lean protein with seasonal veggies with a little olive oil in a large skillet for a quick and easy summer meal. A Croc-Pot® or other slow cooker is another great tool for making a variety of easy, one-pot meals.
Okay, now that we have a game plan, here are a few good reasons for making a habit out of cooking more at home:
- Healthy Options: Many restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium, and fat. Not to mention the portions served are often larger than the recommended serving size. Cooking at home means you have control over what goes on your plate and can easily substitute in healthy ingredients (and even experiment with different flavors). Using measuring cups/spoons and kitchen scales can also help you keep an eye on portion size.
- Save Money: Eating out several times a week can be expensive! Making more meals at home will save money in the long term. In many cases, leftovers from dinner can be easily reheated for lunch the next day. During the winter, you can easily make an extra batch of soup or chili and freeze in serving-size portions. Defrost later for an easy workday lunch or weeknight dinner.
- Involve the Whole Family: Sharing a meal is a favorite way to bond with loved ones. Think of cooking at home as another opportunity for spending time with friends and family by making meal prep a group activity. This way one person isn’t expected to cook the whole dinner for everyone. Plus, involving kids in the kitchen has been known to help with develop healthy eating habits later in life.
If you’re new to cooking at home, start small. Try making just one meal a week at first. As you practice skills in the kitchen, you’ll develop confidence to cook more often. Bon appétit!
(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)