Most of us have eaten outside of our homes, whether it was for a nice evening at a fine restaurant, a quick takeout meal, or something in between. While eating out occasionally is acceptable, there are definite benefits to preparing and cooking your own meals.
For example, findings from a recent study show that dining out frequently may expose you to harmful chemicals known as phthalates. Researchers reviewed data from 10,253 men and women and discovered that those who ate more restaurant, cafeteria, and fast food meals had phthalate levels about 35 percent higher than those who ate primarily grocery store food. Phthalates are commonly found in certain types of plastic and food packaging, so it’s not unexpected that those who eat the most fast food had phthalate levels up to 40% higher than those who eat it less frequently, according to an earlier study by the same researchers.
One reason to avoid eating out is to reduce your exposure to possibly hazardous chemicals by cooking more meals at home once a week or not at all.
Cooking your meals also helps you to manage portion sizes, avoid foods to which you are sensitive or allergic, and avoid foodborne disease by ensuring that meals are correctly cooked. Perhaps most importantly, home cooking allows you to involve your children or grandkids in the process, setting the groundwork for a lifetime of good eating.
If you’re not used to being in the kitchen, it might be intimidating. However, preparing your meals is now easier than ever, and you don’t have to be Julia Child to do so. Although I enjoy cooking, the meals I prepare are usually quick and easy to prepare, as well as delicious. I can make a lot of these in under 30 minutes. Use these pointers to quickly become a competent home cook.
The organization is the key to preparing quick and healthy meals. Keep the kitchen equipment you use daily in the drawer closest to your work area, and store the ones you don’t use very often elsewhere. Make sure your pantry staples are in the front of the cabinet, and that your spices are visible and accessible. Arrange your pots and pans. You’ll need a couple of sauteing pans, a soup pot, a small pot, and an eco-friendly nonstick pan daily; make sure they’re all visible. Also, make sure your blades are sharp. You will be slowed down by a dull blade.
Mealtime is easier – and faster – when you prepare ahead of time. Prepare items that require cleaning and chopping ahead of time. (This is best done after you get them home from the market.) Stock your freezer with portion-sized containers of sauces, stocks, roasted almonds, and prepared meals.
Also, keep salad dressing, cooked grains, chopped veggies, and cooked protein in the fridge so they’re ready to use the following week.
Make a recipe collection
Cook a few meals again and over until you’re completely comfortable with them. You’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to a variety of other recipes. There are lots of quick and nutritious recipes online and in cookbooks, including mine, Fast Food, Good Food: More than 150 Quick and Easy Ways to Serve Healthy, Delicious Food. Before you begin cooking, go through the recipes to get a sense of the changes involved from preparation to cooking and serving. You’ll be better equipped to improvise and stay several moves ahead of the game when you’re familiar with a recipe.
“Because phthalates are commonly found in specific types of plastic and food packaging, it comes as no surprise to me that those who eat the most fast food had phthalate levels up to 40 percent higher than those who eat fast food less frequently.”