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By Janet Fontana

5 Tips for Making Home Cooking Easy, Nutritious, Delicious & Fun

Are you like me and often feel as though your life can’t get any busier? I bet there’s been countless times after working a full day or schlepping your kids around town to their various activities that you felt just too tired to cook dinner. So instead of slaving away in the kitchen, you go the easy route and order Chinese food or a pizza. (At this moment, all you really care about is satisfying hungry mouths). If this sounds familiar, please trust me when I tell you that I’ve been there one too many times myself!

However, while ordering takeout or going through the McDonald’s drive-through might seem like the best option on days when you are most exhausted, it’s important to stop and think about what you’re actually getting from it. Most takeout food is laden with calories. In fact, studies show that the obesity epidemic is largely fueled by the growing trend of eating out and bringing takeout food home. Some studies also reveal that the average fast food meal contains approximately 1000 calories and restaurant fare averages about 18% more calories than the stated value on the menu.

It’s probably obvious that the best way to know what you and your family are eating is to make your own meals at home. Here are a few tips to make cooking at home more convenient, budget-conscious, nutritious, and fun:

Tip #1 Plan ahead

Preparing meals in advanced can help make your week way less stressful. At the beginning of the week, ask your family or roommates if there’s anything specific they’re craving. Welcoming suggestions not only gives you more cooking ideas, but also gives people in your household something to look forward to. I suggest keeping a calendar so you can better track what meals are coming up and what meals you already prepared. A calendar is also a great indicator of when you purchased ingredients so you can anticipate when they will spoil. Also, there’s a number of great smart phone/tablet apps you can download to make life easier by helping you stay organized with your menu planning. One app I really like is Menu Planner by InnovaDev. This app allows you to easily create meal plans, import and store recipes, keep track of the foods in your pantry, and integrate it all into your shopping list.

Tip #2 Purchase all your staple items on less busy days

Try going to the grocery store on the weekend for the staple items you need. No one enjoys food shopping at 5pm on a weekday because most likely it will be a mad house! Therefore, go to the store during a time when you’re least stressed and tired. This way you won’t feel rushed, you can take your time going through the list you prepared, and you can make sure you are placing the freshest ingredients into your cart. Also remember that you don’t need to break the bank in order to eat healthy. For money saving tips on how to cut food costs without compromising nutrition, please download our nursing CE webinar “Healthy Eating for Less.”

Tip #3 Think simple, nutritious & delicious

Not every meal you make needs to look and taste like it was made from a 5-star restaurant. There are MANY wonderful recipes you can cook that are quick, nutritious, and yummy. Remember, the more ingredients you put into a meal, the more time you will need to prep beforehand and clean-up afterwards. Also, consider healthy alternatives. For example, use olive oil or sunflower oil instead of butter. Not only will you cut  fat calories, but many studies reveal that these oils have significant health properties. In addition, it’s important to understand that nutritious food can also be quite tasty. Here are a few easy, healthy, and delicious recipes I’ve collected throughout the years:

Jacques Pépin’s Butter Bean Recipe

Chicken Tortilla Pie

Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Pancetta & Wilted Watercress

Tip #4 Make an event out of cooking

If the last thing you want to do is chop, boil, sauté, fry, or bake, get your household involved to help. Delegate a task for everyone in your house, and whoever does not help during the cooking process automatically is assigned dish duty! Making an event out of cooking is not only fun, it’s also a great way for families or friends to hang out and share what happened during their day.

Tip #5 Make a larger quantity and freeze it for a rainy day

If you know that things will soon pile up at work or at home, prepare ahead by making two or three meals at one time. There are many meals you can make that freeze quite well. Foods like sauces, meatballs, soups, and lasagna can last weeks, if not months in the freezer. Just don’t forget that when you see freezer burn, it’s probably time to throw it out!

To Sum Up

The next time you are having one of those crazy days with little or no time to cook, you will be so happy that you planned your menu and have the ingredients stocked to make a quick, nutritious meal. Or perhaps, you will pull out some homemade soup from your freezer and put together a quick salad for a delicious, healthy meal. Home-cooked meals really can be easy and good for you too! Bon Appétit!

 

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About

Janet Fontana, the founder of Spectrum LifeWorks, on wellness, nursing, and life.

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