Home cooking—the secret to healthy eating

Beautiful mature woman in apron is reading a book with recipes while cooking in kitchen

Image: VadimGuzhva/Bigstock.com

What has happened to the good old-fashioned home-cooked meal?

Decades ago, dinner time meant a simple home-cooked meal (meat and three veg) on a pre-set dining table surrounded by family. Protein powders, health bars and frozen dinners were unheard of and slogging it out at the gym was still something of the future.

The number of people considered overweight and obese was significantly fewer than today. Data from the Preventative Health Taskforce shows that in the 1960s about 5% of children were overweight or obese; nowadays 25% are above the healthy weight range—that’s one out of every four children!

So why have rates of obesity risen so dramatically? Well, look no further than your dinner plate (or lack thereof). Home cooking has vastly become a thing of the past. With our fast-paced society, who has time to flick through a recipe book, slow roast a chicken or stand over a boiling pot after a long day at work? Convenience foods and takeaway dinners have become our saviour, but also our biggest health danger.

An opportunity to improve our health is right in front of us and it’s simple: Go back to basics and start cooking at home.

Bringing back home cooking

No diet pills, ab-workouts or gimmicky meal replacements required. Just eat real food. This will naturally increase your intake of vegetables (think about how many fit into those frozen meal containers) and ensure you eat less salt, sugar and fat. You also gain more awareness and control of your diet because you’re the cook, not the big food companies whose goal is to profit financially.

A big barrier to home cooking for people is confidence. A gradual movement away from cooking means many of us just don’t know how to anymore. Often, it is not your lack of knife skills but your perception of your own ability that stands in the way. Following a recipe is the best way to improve your confidence. A step-by-step guide guarantees better results than making it up as you go along.

Another barrier is cost. Many people believe healthy eating requires strolling down the health food aisle and loading up your trolley with goji berries, macca powders, activated almonds and organic goods. It’s so expensive to shop healthy, right? WRONG.

Some of the healthiest foods are the cheapest. Fruit, vegetables and legumes cost next to nothing but are staples in a healthy diet. In fact, for just under $5 you can buy the ingredients to make a meal at home for a family of 4, compared to popular fast food meals—a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese meal currently costs A$6.69. Multiply that by four and that’s a saving of $22!

And the cost benefit to your health . . . priceless!

Cooking can be time-consuming. Time is precious for most busy families or singles. We like everything fast—internet connections, news, social media updates and . . . food. Home cooking, like in the good old days, can be fast-tracked for this century and all it takes is some organisation and planning.

To save yourself some of that oh-so-valuable time, consider these tips:

  • Plan meals for the week ahead—know what you’re eating and when.
  • Look for healthy convenience options, such as frozen veggies, pre-mixed salads, microwaveable brown rice sachets or tinned legumes. Great staples for any kitchen.
  • Divide out bulk buys into ready-to-use portions e.g. minced meat. If you’re not going to cook it all in one go, freeze what you don’t use for next time.
  • Cook extra meals to store in the freezer—build a bank of home-cooked frozen meals. Just as convenient as the processed ones, like Lean Cuisine, but better quality.
  • Use leftovers wisely—extra rice? Use to make healthy fried rice; extra bolognaise sauce? Whip up a chilli con carne; bananas too ripe? Freeze for smoothies; herbs about to turn? Blend and freeze into ice cubes to use for flavour in other meals.

Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016. This is the first of her monthly posts to be featured in RETIRENOTES.com.

Category: Lifestyle, Physical Health

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