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Health and Fitness News

Hooked on Home-Cooked

Tips to make dinner prep quick and easy.

Many people mistakenly believe home-cooked meals take hours to prepare. Because of the time they think it takes to eat healthy, they eat out on a regular basis or buy pre-made meals to heat in the microwave.

Unfortunately, fast food and prepackaged meals are typically high in calories and filled with unhealthy fats, sodium, added sugars, and preservatives. By not preparing your own meals, you’re missing out on healthy, whole foods that can help keep your weight in check.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try these tips for preparing your own meals in a reasonable amount of time. You’ll improve your health, lose some weight, and save some money in the process.

Find Recipes

You can find hundreds of recipe ideas browsing online. Search “simple, healthy, home-cooked meals” and save the recipes that look appealing. Ask your family or friends for their go-to, easy recipes or flip through a cooking magazine for ideas. Look for recipes that call for fewer than 10 ingredients and take less than half an hour to prepare. Once you have a dozen or so favorites, create a list on your phone or write down a list of meal ideas and post it in your kitchen for easy reference.

Plan Ahead

The next step in preparing your own meals is planning ahead. Unfortunately, this is where many people fail, but it really doesn’t take much time. Set aside a few minutes on one day each week to plan out your meals. While planning, check your calendar to determine which meals you’ll be home for meals, and plan accordingly. Look at your list of meal ideas and choose which ones you want to make. Finally, make a grocery list of the ingredients you need to prepare each meal.

Stock Up

As you do your grocery shopping for the week’s meals, it’s a good idea to stock up on healthy non-perishable foods to make future meal prep that much easier. Keep canned goods or frozen foods on hand for nights when you don’t have time to make anything else. Your meal may not include fresh ingredients, but it’ll still be healthier than fast food.

Fast food is popular because it’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it tastes good. But the real cost of eating fast food never appears on the menu. - Eric Schlosser

Prepare in Bulk

When you have extra time to prepare a meal, plan to make double or triple the recipe. This way you can eat leftovers the next night or freeze the leftovers to save for those days when you’re in a pinch for time. Soups, pastas, and casseroles store easily in the freezer, so don’t feel obliged to eat everything within 24 hours.

Make your week even easier by taking a few minutes to chop up a bunch of salad ingredients and store them in the refrigerator. When mealtime rolls around, toss the veggies together for a nutritious salad. If you eat a lot of rice or noodles, cook enough to last you through the week. You’ll save time and ensure you’re not enticed by your favorite fast food restaurants.

Use Your Slow Cooker

When planning your meals, don’t forget about the slow cooker hiding in your cabinet! It’s a simple way to get things cooked, and it’s so nice to come home after a long day to the smells of yummy food that is ready to be scooped onto a plate and enjoyed. Throw in the ingredients in the morning and by dinnertime, your meal will be ready to eat. Soups, stews, chili, BBQ, beef, and chicken all cook up nicely in slow cookers. So be sure to include several slow cooker recipes on your go-to meal list!