My Story, Nutrition, Uncategorized

My Story: Gaining Confidence in the Kitchen

By Kait

I never used to cook at home. In fact I HATED cooking. I had no confidence in the kitchen and burned everything, even toast. Time was another reason I didn’t cook often. I always thought cooking a meal had to take a ton of time; I really just wanted my food to appear in front of me. At the same time, I wanted to eat healthier but had no idea where to start or what to do with things like vegetables and spices. Then a coworker mentioned she had signed up for Plated [a subscription meal service] and suggested I give it a try. It sounded like an interesting concept, so I went for it.

What I like most is that it saves time and effort. Everything you need to make the dish is included and portioned out for you. Some recipes use ingredients I never would have bought on my own because I didn’t know how to use them, so it’s a great way to try new things. I also discovered that cooking doesn’t take up as much time as I thought. We typically cook at home 3-4 times a week (usually dinner). We’re definitely eating as a family more often, and I enjoy getting to spend time with loved ones while preparing meals.

We’ve been using Plated for about a year now and I feel much better about my cooking skills. I know if I made a recipe once I can do it again. You get to keep the recipe cards, so we’ll usually do a little experimenting the next time we make the dish. I’m eating healthier now, too. Before, I never really ate vegetables (or if I did they were just raw). I’d go into the grocery store and see all these wonderful looking vegetables but feel intimidated not knowing what to do with them. Now that I have a better idea how to cook them, I include vegetables with my meals often.

I recommend signing up for something like Plated if you don’t have much confidence with cooking. The recipes are easy and they tell you about how much time it takes to make. You’ll learn how to cook new things and different types of vegetables. My parents actually signed up for another meal delivery service, Blue Apron, because of my experience with Plated.

 

 

Nutrition

Three Reasons to Cook More Meals at Home

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)

Announcements

Cooking with Flavor Recap

The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  Anna Nakayama, a dietetic intern with the MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services, joined us for a chat about healthy ways to add flavor to meals without extra fat and calories.

Click below for highlights:

Nutrition

Spice up the Flavor

UpdatedHerbsandSpicesCutting back on salt doesn’t mean your meal has to be bland.  Experimenting with herbs and spices is an easy way to add flavor to your dish without extra fat or calories.  We sometimes use herb and spice to mean the same thing, but spices can be made from roots, seeds, bark or fruit of a plant while herbs are usually just leaves.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Basil – A common ingredient in tomato-based dishes like pasta sauces, this herb with its large green leaves and slightly sweet flavor can also be used to season vegetables or as a base for homemade pesto.
  • Cayenne Pepper – Use this spice made from dried chili peppers to add heat to your dish.  Note:  this spice can be very hot, so use only a little bit at a time (especially if you don’t eat spicy food often).
  • Cloves – A pungent spice used in both sweet and savory dishes.  Ground cloves are often paired with cinnamon and nutmeg in baking, while whole cloves can add flavor to roasting meats like ham or lamb (insert right into the meat and remove before serving).
  • Black Pepper – Salt’s tabletop companion, this versatile spice adds a little warmth to just about any dish.  Use it to season meat or poultry before cooking, add it to soups and stews, or sprinkle a little on your meal at the table.
  • Rosemary – The leaves of this herb look a lot like pine needles when dried.  Its strong, earthy flavor pairs well with grilled meats and roasted vegetables.

Many supermarkets these days sell fresh herbs in the produce section, and you can even grow your own on a windowsill.  If you use dried herbs, store them in a tightly sealed container away from heat and light.

What’s your favorite cooking seasoning?

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition)
Nutrition

All About (Cooking) Oil

The last time you went to the supermarket, did you happen to notice all the different types of cooking oils on the shelf?  There’re the old standbys olive and canola oils, but you may also encounter things like walnut, sesame and even avocado oils.  All cooking oils are a type of fat made from plant sources (typically nuts and seeds), and many are the heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated types which may help raise “good” cholesterol; especially when substituted for butter.  We all need some fat in the diet to help build and maintain cells and absorb certain vitamins.  Plus, fat adds flavor and texture to food and baked goods.  Specialty and gourmet oils can even add their own distinct flavor to your dishes.

When deciding what type of oil to use when cooking, the most important thing to be aware of is the smoke point:  the temperature at which heated oil starts to smoke.  Heating oil beyond this point will cause it to break down and leave an unpleasant flavor in your food.  (Not to mention a good chance the oil will catch fire!)  The smoke point is different for each type of oil, making some better choices than others for certain cooking methods.

If your holiday menu includes fried foods (like latkes), an oil with a high smoke point like canola or corn oil is best.  Canola oil can even be used as a substitute for butter or margarine in some recipes; its neutral flavor won’t affect the taste of the finished dish.  Oils with a lower smoke point, such as some types of sesame or walnut oil, are better suited to use as a condiment to add flavor to finished dishes or cooking at a lower heat.  Olive oil, a main feature in the Mediterranean Diet high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, falls somewhere in the middle.  Extra virgin olive oil can be used in baking or sautéing foods at medium heat, but its distinct flavor is also well suited to dressings and sauces (or even drizzling right on steamed veggies).

Whichever type of oil you choose, it will stay fresh if stored in a tightly closed container away from heat and light.  It’s also good to keep in mind that all fats, even heart-healthy olive oil, are high in calories.  At nine calories per gram and about 100-120 per tablespoon, those calories can add up quickly!  Paying attention to portion size can help prevent holiday weight gain.  And as always, include a variety of fruits and veggies; whole grains; lean meat, fish and poultry; and low fat dairy in your meal plan.

Wishing you a happy holiday season!

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition)
recipes

Apple Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Jazz up your Thanksgiving table with this sweet potato recipe from the MGH Be Fit program that features seasonal spices and a healthy dose of vitamin A to help protect your body against infection.

Ingredients:

1½ pound sweet potatoes
1½ cup sliced apples (skins can be left on)
¼ cup raisins
2 tsp canola oil
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 2” chunks. Slice apples. Add potatoes, apples, raisins, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar to a casserole dish. Toss to combine and cover with foil. Cook until fork-tender, approximately 45 minutes. While potatoes are cooking, toast pecans in a skillet on medium heat until they start to turn brown and give off a nutty aroma, approximately 3 minutes. When potatoes are fully cooked, top with toasted pecans and serve.

Yield: About 5 4oz servings

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:
CALORIES: 212 • PROTEIN: 3g • SODIUM: 195mg •
CARBOHYDRATE: 40g • FIBER: 5.5g • FAT: 5g • Sat Fat:0.5g

(Recipe adapted from MGH’s Eat Street Cafe)
Announcements

Feel like you could use some help with your diet? Tell us how we can help!

Massachusetts General Hospital’s Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSME/S) Program and Emerson College are offering a survey for adults with diabetes. We want to understand the challenges people with diabetes face when cooking healthy meals and following a recommended meal plan.

  • Anonymous survey.
  • Only takes 20 minutes or less!
  • Your feedback will help create a cooking and diet tool for patients with diabetes at MGH.
  • After completing the survey, you will be eligible to win a raffle for one of five $10 gift cards to MGH’s Coffee Central!

To take the online survey, visit: http://bit.ly/14Voyvn.