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Get With the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life

Get with the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life Young family cooking food in kitchen. Happy young girl with her mother mixing batter in the bowl.

You and your family want to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle. And home-cooked meals are one of the most important parts of the program. It seems insurmountable, too difficult in a hectic 21st-century life. And you feel like you don’t have enough time or enough patience. Don’t feel guilty and just look to the future: where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Sometimes I feel so tired when I get home, that I lay on the bed and only the thought of making dinner seems like a major challenge. I’m sure it happened to you too. Life is so messy, but time is precious. We spend so much time at work or doing chores and running errands, that using up the last time we have left for cooking seems like a way too big sacrifice.

But think about this: cooking something, even while being tired, gives you some sense of accomplishment. A home-cooked meal is healthier for you and will give you more energy, which in turn influences your mood for the better. According to the American Heart Association, people who eat more home-cooked meals have a 13 percent lower chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Also, eating homemade meals was associated with less weight gain!

And you don’t even have to cook every day. If you organize a bit at home, maybe even involve your family and friends, you can have home-cooked meals with maximum efficiency. Here are some ideas on how to get started!

Get with the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life

The first thing you have to do is make a meal plan. And then stick to it, of course.

7 ideas for the path to home-cooked meals 

1. Dream a little; get inspired

For me, this is the first step, because it really gets my creative juices flowing. I like to read culinary blogs and magazines incessantly. I love witnessing the creativity and the visual flourishes. Plus, feeling someone’s culinary passion is a surefire way to kindle mine!

This step is not actual work, it’s more like visual relaxation. So make a bookmark folder on your browser and save all the things you would like to cook!

2. Plan, plan, plan

You know by now what kind of food you and your family like and what your budget is. So make a weekly, even monthly, meal plan! You don’t have to make it very rigid, though, leave room for a restaurant dinner or family pizza night.

Once you have that plan, it’s easy to make a shopping list and go to the grocery store for as many of the items as possible. Think about what kind of time you save if you have one trip to the supermarket, as opposed to seven!

Get with the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life

Once you've made a meal plan, go to the grocery store and pick up all of the ingredients.

3. Cook once, eat multiple times

The freezer and fridge are there to help you! Trust that. You can use the weekends or one night a week when you have more energy to cook for the whole week. You can make things like soup, a double meatloaf, casseroles, meatballs, stews... The sky is the limit. You can double or triple the quantity you usually make, as a rule. And then keep what’s left until tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow, so you don’t get bored.

4. Cook with loved ones

My kitchen is a happy place, filled with love, and whenever I cook for someone I care about, my patience grows exponentially. So you can invite some friends and family on the weekend, and cook together. Put on some music, and the work will become a pleasure.

5. Try the slow-cooking, time-saving experience

Have you noticed how slow-cookers are everywhere these days? There’s a reason for their resurgence! It takes just a few minutes to add ingredients in the morning, or even the night before, and when you get home after work, the food will be waiting for you, warm, and with a cozy, yummy aroma enveloping your house. A crock-pot can be a real time-saver.

Get with the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life

A slow cooker or crock-pot does a large part of the cooking for you.

6. Keep it simple

If you’re making a more complex dish, try to balance it out with something really simple, like a fresh veggie salad or cooking some frozen vegetables in the skillet.

7. Improvise!

The thing about a meal plan is that it can end up a little dull. So save up your favorite recipes, but don’t always follow them to the letter. Tinker with ingredients, toppings, dressings, and sauces. Try out some new herbs and flavors.

Expand your culinary horizons and don’t worry, there will always be something new to try!

Get with the Program: Home-Cooked Meals for a Healthier Life

A complex meal for the extended family is a good way to practice planning and experimenting with food.

I’m a pop culture nerd who thinks too much about fried bacon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and life, the Universe and everything. I love food and sometimes you can see that on my hips, but I don't care that much about that.
What I do care more about is trying to eat healthier, even though I admit that I like to indulge in my food fantasies. I’m addicted to puns, so forgive me for that when you read my articles. I now know too much about nutrition to be fun to hang out with. So long and thanks for all the fish-based omega-3 fatty acids.

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