Most of us prepare the majority of our daily meals at home. But over the past 5 years an increasing number of my patients and clients don’t cook. Why? “I’m too busy and just don’t have the time”, “I’m always working”, “I never learned and my mom didn’t cook either” are the majority of answers I receive. From a nutrition perspective this is not a good thing, especially if you are invested in staying healthy.
Dining out in restaurants or grabbing food on the run often leads to an unhealthy diet that is high in sugar, fat, salt, and calories. And it is very expensive. So, are you one of the “cooking impaired”? If you are, and want to eat healthier, don’t be discouraged. There are strategies to help you prepare meals that are easy, healthy, and sustainable over time.
COOKING STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
CROCKPOTS or SLOW COOKERS
Crockpots, or slow cookers, are one of the easiest and most economical ways to prepare a meal with the least amount of time needed. Prepare a meal at a time or day that is convenient for you by throwing all the ingredients into the crockpot. Cover, plug in, set on low heat, and go. When you return home, the meal is done, supper is ready, and cleanup is easy. Not to mention you have left-overs too! Favorite cookbooks are “Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Cookbook” and “The Healthy Slow Cooker” . Both include easy to make recipes that don’t require exotic or hard to get ingredients and are healthy. I also like the Eating Well website for all kinds of recipes, including ones for the crockpot, that are healthy and easy to make.
If you have the extra money, hiring a personal chef may be one option. Personal chefs will usually come to your home and prepare meals for you. An agreed upon amount of meals are made and stored in your refrigerator or freezer. Personal chefs will discuss the types of foods you like and how you would like them prepared (such as gluten free, lots of vegetables, “healthy and low fat”, etc.) and then present you with a menu to chose from. Once you have agreed upon a menu, they will come to your home to prepare your meals so that when you return home you can just heat them up and eat. To find personal chefs you can visit the American Personal & Private Chef Association website (http://www.personalchef.com) or ask friends, family, and colleagues if they recommend anyone. The drawback to personal chefs is that they do tend to be expensive.
Meal kits, which are kits that are sent to your home with prepared ingredients and a recipe card, are becoming increasingly popular. Blue Apron (https://www.blueapron.com) and Hello Fresh (https://www.hellofresh.com) are just two companies that have been around for a few years and offer “farm fresh ingredients”. But an increasing number of companies are beginning to offer them, including Tom Brady and Amazon! Meal kits will vary between the traditional boxes on the store shelf (think Hamburger Helper) to fresh, already prepared vegetables that you add to your protein choice and cook. Step by step instructions are included to help you cook the meal easily. Membership is usually required but can be cancelled at any time. And while meal kits will cost more than if you cooked and shopped for yourself, they are less expensive than personal chefs. In general, my clients who have used Blue Apron or Hello Fresh have been happy with them. But remember, you will need to purchase a food that provides protein, like meat or chicken or fish, and you will need to cook the meal. The advantage of the meal kit is that preparation time is reduced, step by step instructions are provided making it an easier process, and everything is delivered to your home. If you do sign up for a meal kit delivery service be sure the delivered meal kit is still cold and was refrigerated properly.
Many supermarkets now offer prepared meals that you can purchase, take home, heat up or cook off, and eat. A little more expensive than if you prepared it yourself, this can be an economical way to prepare meals quickly and with little effort at the end of the day, also giving you a little more flexibility about what you feel like eating that day. Just be sure to check ingredients and how the foods are prepared because some items can be high in fat, salt, and calories.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST …. YOU CAN LEARN TO COOK!
Cooking is not as difficult as some people think it is. There are plenty of websites and cookbooks that can help you get started. If you feel you need some one on one guidance, ask a friend or family member who likes to cook or attend a class at a kitchen specialty store, supermarket (like Whole Foods), or those offered in the community. If you prefer the convenience of your home, you can also take online cooking classes. Rouxbe Online Cooking School ( https://rouxbe.com/cooking-school) has lessons on how to sharpen a knife or boil water to gourmet recipes.
So….there is plenty of hope for the “cooking impaired”! Just try it out and enjoy!!!