Dinner is Served

by karen on October 26, 2018

With the amount of work we all have to do each day, it’s no wonder that so many of us turn to restaurants and fast food chains for some or all of our dinners each week. But as we discussed here on the blog last week, this can be a seriously unhealthy habit with detrimental effects, despite its initial convenience.

Not only does eating a healthy meal at home save us money, it makes us feel better when we feed our bodies with the nutrients they deserve. The act of cooking itself can also be very soothing for many of us as a nice way to treat ourselves and unwind after a long day. There are various reasons that many of us don’t cook, two of the main causes being that we don’t have time or that we don’t know how to cook healthily. So, instead of overwhelming your body with calories, fats, and salt, we have some tips to help you feel more empowered to cook for yourself at home.

Tip #1.  Eat the 5 food groups

As with every meal, your dinner plate should include an item from each of the following food groups: protein, grain and veggie, rounded out with fruit and dairy. Within this model, roughly half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Not only do these two powerhouse food groups contain nutrients that are both essential and beneficial for our bodies, they also add volume to our meals without many calories to keep us fuller longer and help promote weight loss and overall wellness.

Tip # 2.  Cut back on fat and sugar

We also want to limit fat and added sugar wherever possible, so refer to the list below when at the grocery store or before preparing a meal to be sure you’re keeping it as healthy as possible:

  • Use nonfat or 1% fat milk and yogurt
  • Keep portions of full-fat foods small
  • The healthiest fats are from plant sources
  • Use sugar-free and no-added-sugar foods
  • Use sweeteners like Stevia in place of sugar
  • Buy lite, juice-packed, or water-packed canned fruit
  • Purchase lite or low-carb yogurts

Tip #3.  Save yourself time

I get it, you don’t always want to come home from work only to have to spend additional time cooking yourself dinner. However, there are a couple tricks you can try to make cooking a more enjoyable and rewarding experience.

  • Use convenience items: bagged salad, steamer vegetables, grated cheese, etc.
  • Make extra of “bulk” items (sauce, soup, etc.) and freeze leftovers for a fast meal another time
  • Use leftover proteins (chicken, salmon, tofu) to balance your next day’s breakfast or lunch and save time on those meals
  • Put on music, the news, or your favorite tv show while you cook to make it “me time” and enjoy the process as much as the delicious final result
  • Prep meals over the weekend to save yourself time on busy weeknights
  • Keep your kitchen (both tools and food) organized so you can get to what you need quickly and easily

Hopefully, you’ll be able to utilize at least some of these Nutrition Connection tips in order to help make your next dinner-time a home-cooked one. Check back next week for another article in our meal prepping series!

Karen Fisher, MS, RDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website at www.NutritionConnectionNV.com

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