Cooking at Home – How It Can Make all the Difference

These days, with the economy faltering, people are turning to their home stoves and cookware rather than dialing up for take-out or delivery, or heading to a restaurant. Other times people choose to eat at home because they think it’s healthier and better for the family, and finances are only part of that. Regardless, cooking at home can make all the difference. Here’s how.

 1. Known Ingredients

When you cook your meals and the meals in your family, you know what’s going into your food. Even if you don’t crunch numbers, you can control the sodium, sugar, and caloric content when you cook your food. Restaurant food often has all kinds of additives in it, not to mention astronomical amounts of sodium…

And when you cook at home, you won’t be fooled by clever names or labels – restaurants may call a dish “multi-grain” which makes it sound healthy, but this could mean they just added a few sprinkles of various grains to a white-flour recipe.

 2. Less Time Than You Think

Many people are daunted by the prospect of cooking at home because of the time it seems to take. But think about it – the time it takes to get everyone into the car, drive to a restaurant, park, wait for a person to take your order, and then wait for your order is significant.

Most meals take from 30 to 60 minutes to prepare, and clean-up maybe 30 minutes. And you can share these tasks with other family members which decreases the total hours spent. Cooking and cleaning up can be family time, too.

 3. Plan

Once you’ve recognized that eating out isn’t necessarily a time saver, you can begin to plan your at-home meals to save even more time. When you plan, you can fit your home-cooked meal into your everyday life.

Mapping out a weekly menu complete with estimated cooking times is a great way to take control of your home cooking efforts. If you’re just “winging it” every night, it can get exhausting.

 4. Healthier

Over and over, it’s been shown that eating home-cooked meals made from whole ingredients is healthier. As noted above, you control what goes into your food when you cook it at home.

If you use healthy, whole-food ingredients, your food is going to be nutritionally superior to the mass-produced stuff in restaurants.

Also, studies have shown that eating at home is healthier in other ways – families tend to be closer if they eat together, and children in such families tend to be healthier socially and otherwise.

Creative Ideas for Making Family Cooking Fun

Cooking for a family can be a chore. Kids complain about the food. Parents don’t have enough time to put a healthy meal on the table. And mealtime ends up being stressful.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a few creative ideas for making family cooking fun.

#1 Let everyone choose a meal.

Even kids know what they like to eat. Make mealtime planning a family activity. Invite each child to choose a meal for the upcoming week. If they’re old enough, they can also help prepare it.

You may run into a few bumps with younger children who always choose chicken fingers or pizza. If this is the case, you have a few options. You can provide them with a list of three to five menu items to choose from. Or you can look through a cookbook together to come up with new ideas.

Encourage older children to look at the store supplements too. That way they can help you save money when they’re making their menu choice.

This strategy is also a great way to motivate children to try new foods. Give them an age-appropriate cookbook that they can choose their recipes from. You may be surprised what they come up with.

#2 Make ahead meals.

Make ahead meals are great time savers. You can make them, freeze them, and then warm them up for an easy mealtime. However, make-ahead meals also offer something else. They offer you the opportunity to ask your children to help with the preparation.

If you’re cooking lasagna, for example, younger children can mix the cheese sauce while older children brown the meat. All hands on deck for the layering.

This is a great bonding experience. It also helps your children learn how to cook and manage recipes. That’s certainly a skill boy and girls will need when they get older.

#3 Make it themselves.

When children are old enough, ask them to be responsible for a meal. You may have to make the occasional schedule adjustment if they have an after-school activity. However, this is a fantastic lesson in responsibility. And you’ll be surprised how much fun your child can have when they’re given this responsibility.

Try to be supportive. Not all meals are going to be delicious. Use this as a learning experience.

#4 Get everyone involved.

Some meals are just made for group involvement. For example, the “make your own pizza” night. Make the dough ahead of time. Buy the toppings that each family member likes. Then let everyone make their pizza. This is great for a family game night or weekend meal when you have a lot of time to laugh and cook.

#5 Make breakfast for dinner.

Lighten it up once in a while and make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, waffles – you name it, it’s all good. Who says breakfast can only be served in the morning?

There are many ways to get the whole family involved and to make family cooking fun. Adapt your strategies to the ages of your children.

Offer support but let them learn and make mistakes too. Cooking teaches many life skills including planning, improvising and of course learning from our mistakes.

Easy and Quick Low-Fat Cooking Tips for the Whole Family

When you want to go low-fat in your diet, you may not think you can include the whole family; you may picture yourself eating cardboard-like food by yourself while the rest of the family eats fatty foods. But think again – you can implement a few strategies to produce low-fat food for the whole family. Here are some tips:

 1. Don’t Cut Out All Fat

This is a mistake that some low-fat diet enthusiasts make – they simply decide to eat no fat whatsoever. There’s a problem with that approach – it fails to take into account your body’s need for fat.

Some vitamins, such as the very important Vitamin D, are fat soluble, which means you won’t absorb them without the presence of fat.

So make sure you include some healthy fats, such as olive oil, in your recipes.

 2.Replace High-Fat with Low-Fat

Look in your fridge and see what high-fat foods you can replace. That way, you’ll have low-fat versions on hand for cooking. Dairy products are especially easy to find in low to no-fat versions.

Health experts recommend low-fat rather than fat-free for dairy products because your body will have a hard time absorbing Vitamin D in dairy products without some fat.

Chicken, beef, and vegetable stock also come in fat-free versions, which are convenient to have on hand for all sorts of dishes. You can also use the broth to sauté instead of oil.

 3. Keep Lean Meat on Hand

Keep your kitchen stocked with lean beef, poultry, and fish. Also, fatty fish is a good source of healthy fats, so you can always keep some salmon or Arctic char on hand, too.

 4. Cook without Fat

Learn how to bake, broil, steam, and poach foods instead of frying them. For sautéing, you can use broth instead of oil, or use the sauté as a chance to get some healthy oil into your diet.

 5. Non-Stick Cookware

Let’s face it – cast iron cookware may be durable, but it does require more “grease” than non-stick cookware. You need to keep cast iron oiled for it to perform well. Using non-stick cookware enables you to cook foods without a lot of added fat to prevent sticking.

  6. Low-Fat Baking – Substitutes

Did you know that fruit purees – particularly prune and apple – can replace some of the fat in many baked goods? The same can be said for plain yogurt, too – try replacing half to three-fourths of the fat in a recipe with low-fat, plain yogurt. And speaking of plain yogurt…

 7. Keep Low-Fat, Plain Yogurt on Hand

This is a “workhorse” in the low-fat kitchen. You can strain it to make a cream cheese-like texture, or use it as a sour cream substitute in many dishes. Plain yogurt thickens sauces in place of heavy cream. Greek versions are naturally thicker and can be used similarly.

Changing how you eat is always a great step towards healthy eating, and it will affect how your body performs. The healthier you eat, you better you’ll feel.

No matter how old you may be, healthy eating is something you should strive for.

Once you give it a chance, you’ll see in no time at all just how much it can change your life – for the better.

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With love and respect,

Tunde