Cooking for Yourself
Cooking for yourself seems daunting at first, but once you get started, you may find it to be a fun and cheap way to eat well. Cooking can also be very social, so team up with friends and share your cooking secrets. In addition, cooking at home offers many other advantages:
- Cooking at home is cheap.
- Cooking at home allows you to choose healthy ingredients and cook healthy food.
- Cooking at home can save you time.
- Cooking at home empowers you to get creative and make food meals exactly as you like them.
- Getting Started
Cooking at home is cheap.
Think about how much money you could save by cooking meals at home instead of buying take-out or eating at restaurants on a daily basis. You'll want to have a stash of basic ingredients in your kitchen, but once you have basic items stocked in your pantry, you'll be surprised by how long these items will last you!
Some ideas for stocking a basic pantry:
- Buy basic grains and pulses (rice, pasta, oats, dried lentils, quinoa) in bulk that will last for a long time
- Cans of beans, chickpeas, tuna, soup, and tomatoes will also keep for a long time
- Healthy crackers that keep as long as you don't open the plastic package
- Frozen or canned fruits are a reasonable alternative if you cannot get to a grocery store every few days to restock. However, beware of added salt, sugar, and sauces.
- Basic spices will make your food taste better and last a long time.
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Cooking at home allows you to choose healthy ingredients and cook healthy food.
As the cook, you control the amount of fat, salt, carbs, and other substances that are in the food, and you control how much you put on your plate. You can buy fruits and vegetables in season at the peak of their flavor and nutritional value rather than settling for the browning lettuce or fruit that tastes like cardboard.
Some tips for healthy cooking:
- Try steaming, broiling, grilling, roasting, baking, microwaving, or simmering instead of frying or cooking with lots of oil
- Choose lean meats (turkey breast, chicken, sirloin) instead of sausage or bacon
- Choose ground turkey or lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef or ground pork
- Use low-fat or fat-free milk instead of whole milk
- When sauteing onions or garlic, use nonstick spray and water instead of oil
- When making salad dressing, cut the amount of oil in half, use equal amounts of vinegar and water, and add extra mustard for flavor
- When making bread, pizza dough, or muffins substitute ½ whole wheat flour instead of white flour
- When making breads or muffins, use three very ripe mashed up bananas (or ½ cup of applesauce) instead of ½ cup of butter or oil
- Use lemon juice, herbs, and spices to season food instead of salt, butter, oil, or margarine
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Cooking at home can save you time.
You've probably heard people complain about how long it takes to make dinner every night, but think about the time you spend driving to a restaurant and waiting for your food. (Sure, you might argue that McDonald's is speedy, but we already know that eating fast food regularly is not good for your body or your mind).
Fixing something simple, such as a grilled chicken salad, can take less than 10 minutes. You might even have leftovers to pack as a lunch the next day. In addition, if you make extra portions of your favorite food, you can freeze the leftovers. This way you have quick home-cooked food another night.
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Cooking at home empowers you to get creative and make food meals exactly as you like them.
If you don't like black olives on your Greek salad, don't add them. If you want a little extra basil on your pasta, add it. Switch up recipes, make whatever side dish you want – control the flavor and amount of food that goes onto your plate.
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Browse magazines or online to find some simple recipes that are appealing to you, then make a list of ingredients and buy only what you need. Going to the grocery store with a plan can help you avoid buying lots of useless items to add to your cupboard. (After a few weeks you will find yourself needing to buy less and less at the grocery store because you will already have rice, sugar, flour, and other items that can be used week after week.)
You won't be a celebrity chef overnight so don't get too ahead of yourself by picking big, elaborate meals. It is okay to be simple; think grilled chicken, a rice dish, and some steamed vegetables. As you gain confidence, you can add more elaborate combinations of spices and mixtures.
Even if you are pressed for time, try to avoid frozen and pre-made foods as they can be full of preservatives and excessive amounts of sodium or fat. Instead, choose foods that are quick and easy to make such as grilled chicken and a salad or a veggie-tofu stir-fry with rice.
After a couple of weeks, you may be surprised at how quick and efficient you have gotten at preparing your meals. It may be frustrating at first, but don't fall into the habit of easy mac 'n' cheese and frozen pizzas.
Want to improve your diet? Track your progress on your health goals using your Young Adult WAY2GO! Dashboard.
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