Cook at Home. Please.
By Amy Surdam, FNP
“What we have folks, is an epidemic. We have an epidemic that needs intentional intervention by each and every one of us for our families.”
Obesity is on the rise. Diabetes has quadrupled since 1980 and is projected to continue to grow. Nearly 100 million Americans have Metabolic Syndrome. And worse, the US life expectancy has decreased for the first time in decades.
What we have folks, is an epidemic. We have an epidemic that needs intentional intervention by each and every one of us for our families. A mass cultural, behavior shift is the only way we are going to stop this epidemic. Cooking at home should be a priority intervention. Many studies have shown that countries in which people cook at home have a lower obesity rate. America needs to cook at home.
Convenient, abundant food choices tempt us 24/7. Cooking at home might seem difficult, time consuming, and unnecessary especially when you are getting off work late and you are exhausted. However, with careful planning and the right attitude cooking at home can become a family tradition that you will look forward to.
Home cooked meals have less calories and sodium than when dining out and you will actually know what is in your food. Bonus! Eating together also builds relationships and helps children do better in school. Single?
Cook at home and invite a friend.
Here’s how to start cooking at home in just six steps.
1 – Shop.
Make sure you have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes, seasonings, and whole grains stocked. Or, find a few simple, five ingredient recipes and buy those items ahead of time. Nothing is more draining then going to the grocery store/farmer’s market AND cooking back to back. If you don’t have time to shop and cook in the same day, plan your meals and go to the store once or twice a week at most.
2 – Create an Experience.
You’re tired, you worked all day, you’ve done the after school witching hour thing, and now you have to cook? No, now you get to cook. Turn on some nice relaxing music, invite your family or loved ones into the kitchen with you, and embrace the experience. Give each person, even the kids, a cutting or washing station, an apron, and a role to play. Embrace it.
3 – Prepare.
Wash hands. Wash produce. Let the kids use the salad spinner or tear lettuce while you chop vegetables into pretty little julienne slices. As soon as they are old enough let them chop. Teach them to cook and to love cooking. Teach them to explore with their hands, their noses, and their taste buds.
The other day I was cutting a lemon and my pickiest eater, Lane, watched me intensely then said, “I wonder what a lemon tastes like.” I handed him a slice and his face soured up as he bit it. I’m not sure he would have ever wondered what a lemon tasted like if he wouldn’t have been in the kitchen with an apron on, standing on a chair, and chopping grapes. Hands on, interactive learning at its finest.
4 – Make it delicious and healthy.
In subsequent articles we will go into “healthy”, but in a nutshell Michael Pollan said it best, “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” Got it? Minimize or eliminate processed foods, go heavy on the vegetables, and experiment with seasonings. Make it taste delicious. Life is too short to eat cardboard. Healthy, home cooked food should be delicious.
5 – Enjoy.
Set the table. Plate the food. All electronics off (except for that relaxing music). Be.
The first night of our we-are-going-to-cook-at-home-as-a-family my six-year- old son Drew ate every single bite of the chicken with pesto and sundried tomatoes. He devoured the chickpea and avocado salad. It was his first time with a chickpea and he picked it up with his fingers, studies it for a few seconds, then popped it into his mouth before he asked what it was. Dessert was fruit with a little yogurt stirred in. He enjoyed his meal. And I enjoyed watching him eat it.
6 – Clean up.
Cleaning up is part of the meal and should be done as a family. Everyone should be skilled washing dishes, wiping counters, and taking out the recycling and trash. But before you get too carried away, put some of that leftover deliciousness in a few containers for lunch tomorrow or dinner a few nights from now. Leftovers are your best friend.
For a comprehensive review of the advantages of eating at home please refer to Eating at Home vs. Eating Out.
At Stitches, we care about your health. Please send us your cooking at home pictures and we will share them on FB!
Healthy Homemade Recipes
Homemade Basil Pesto
3 cups Basil, fresh slightly packed leaves
2 tsp Garlic
1 tsp Lemon, zest
2 tsp Lemon juice
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Blend. Add salt if needed.
One Pan Pesto Chicken and Vegetables
1 lb Chicken thighs (I used a precooked chicken from the grocery store)
1 lb Asparagus (I bet green beans or broccoli would work if you have a picky eater)
1 cup Cherry tomatoes, yellow and red
1/3 cup Sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup Basil pesto
2 tbsp Olive oil
- Heat a large skillet on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, add sliced chicken thighs, season chicken generously with salt, add half of chopped sun-dried tomatoes – and cook everything on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, flipping a couple of times, until the chicken is completely cooked through. Remove the chicken and sun-dried from the skillet, leaving oil in.
- Add asparagus (ends trimmed), seasoned generously with salt, remaining half of sun-dried tomatoes, and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the asparagus cooked through. Remove asparagus to serving plate.
- Add chicken back to the skillet, add pesto, stir to coat on low-medium heat until chicken is reheated, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add halved cherry tomatoes, mix with the pesto and the chicken. Add chicken and tomatoes to the serving plate with asparagus.
Chickpea and avocado salad
2 Avocados, pitted, and chopped
1 can Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/3 cup Cilantro
2 tbsp Green onion
1 Lime, Juice of
1 Salt and black pepper
1/3 cup Feta cheese
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