Tag Archives: Dinner

Back to Basics, Nutrition Rule #10

Rule 10: COOK

This is probably the most important rule of nutrition, at least in my opinion. To be clear, my definition of cooking does not include opening a box of Kraft “Dinner.” That’s not cooking. That’s boiling and stirring. Cooking means taking whole ingredients and making them into something edible.


-You control what goes into your food. You can choose to leave out the preservatives, use healthier oils and fats, reduce the sodium, or add more vegetables.  You are no longer a “Zombie eater,” which is what I call folks who mindlessly eat whatever they happen to be driving by at the time they decide they’re hungry.

-Almost anything you make at home is healthier than fast food, and even most restaurant food. It’s actually difficult to replicate the number of calories in a McDonald’s sandwich. You actually have to work hard to get that many calories in there, not to mention all the crap you can’t pronounce .  Making a burger with all the fixin’s at home will not only save you potentially hundreds of calories per meal, but the calories you do eat are far more likely to contain something resembling vitamins or minerals.

-You appreciate food more when you cook it yourself. So do children, so have them help in the kitchen. One of the easiest ways to get kids to eat healthy is to have them help select food items and put them together into something edible. It helps build a healthier relationship with food, making it a more integral part of life than just the act of consuming. And, this can lead to healthier choices and food preferences.


-If you’ve never cooked anything in your life, take a basic cooking class if you can. It’s worth the money, which you’ll save in short order once you stop eating out.

-If you have the basic skills of picking out food (what produce is ripe, what meat is lean, etc.), cutting and chopping, simmering, sauteeing, etc., then invest some time in reading cookbooks (you can get them from the library, and either just photocopy or write down what you want to try–if you like enough of the recipes, buy the book). Or, use quality sites like epicurious.com,  VegetarianTimes.com, or others that fit your lifestyle. Work on a collection of recipes you and your family will eat, and put them in a binder.

-Start small. Cook a few nights a week, and add nights as you find recipes. Start with easy, quicker recipes. As your skill develops, you can add more complicated recipes. Unless you love doing dishes, start with some good one-pot meals or crockpot meals. Start with inexpensive ingredients, like legumes, whole wheat pastas, or in-season vegetables. That way, if you totally muck it up (and we all do sometimes), it won’t be as big a deal. Work your way to more expensive ingredients as you gain confidence in your skills

-Plan for it. Each night, look at what you’re going to eat the next day. See, this is where the Meal Planning rule come  in! Take a moment each evening to get things out of the freezer, set up the crockpot, or anything else that requires a little preparation.

-Just do it. Like most things in life, getting good at cooking requires practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at things like determining how long a particular recipe will take to make, or what time you should put the rice on so it is done when your chicken comes out of the oven.

And, that’s the end of the series. There are a lot of smaller “rules,” and there are a lot of paths to a healthier lifestyle. Start simply, and see what works for you. Educate yourself, make your health a priority, and enjoy your food. The rest will follow.


Back to Basics: Nutrition Rule #8

Plan your meals.

This is something to start small with, but it’s a very necessary step for most people who want to eat a healthful diet based on whole foods.


-Eating spontaneously leads to poor food choices. When we’re hungry, we don’t usually want to fuss with making something that might take a bit of preparation, we just want to eat.

-Meal planning means have all your ingredients to-hand, while eating on the go means more shopping trips, which make it easier to overspend on groceries and make less ideal food choices.

-It gives you a road map for food preparation, so you can plan time to eat healthfully and meet your nutritional goals.

-It relieves a lot of the stress around meals. Once you get used to doing this, meal times become much more fun and easygoing than having to come home from work, figure out what you’re going to make, run to the store, and then try to cook everything in 15 minutes so you’re not eating at 9PM.


-Start small. Make a list of 10-14 dinners (depending on how your weekends usually go) that you (and your family) will eat. This is your starting point. Some people, such as ourselves, like to decide which meals will go on which nights. We tend to have kind of erratic schedules, so it helps us to plan who is cooking on what night, what meals will best fit our available preparation time, etc. But, some people do just find with having weekly dinners set up and the groceries purchased, and deciding between those meals each night. Find what works for you.

-Once you have this laid out, you can start adding or switching dinners to your lists each week. Use your meal lists to make your grocery lists.

-Each week, look at your list and assess how healthful the dinners are. If they could use some tweaking, try to do one or two meals a week with simple things, like adding a vegetable or switching from white to brown rice. This makes the transitions a bit easier than trying to do it all at once.

-Allow children who are old enough to help with the plan. They’re more likely to eat healthful foods if they help plan and prepare them!

-Once you’ve got the hang of making a dinner plan, try either breakfasts or lunches, whichever makes more sense for you. We plan most of our dinners to give us leftovers for lunches, which works well for us, but it may not work as well for others.

This will take some getting used to. Most of us are used to eating on the fly, and eating “what we’re in the mood for.” Unfortunately, that’s one of the ways we’ve gotten to be such an unhealthy nation, and it needs to change. Make a solid family commitment to meal plan for at least one month of dinners, and by the end of it, you may find yourself thinking “how did I do this any other way?”

Monday Healthy Eating: Jan. 11, 2011

Don’t eat in front of your TV, your computer, your video game console, or your book. When you eat, eat like an adult: at a table, with silverware and a napkin, taking time to enjoy your food. And, like our grandparents taught our parents, teach your kids to eat like an adult.

Why? Because study after study shows that eating while distracted means poorer food and eating choices, including overeating and empty calories.

Make your dinner time a dinner time, and your TV time a TV time. Don’t let the two intersect, and don’t let your children do it, either. Kids eat up to twice as many calories when they eat in front of the television as they do when they sit down to eat undistracted. Adults aren’t much better.

Plus, and this is important to me as an avid food lover, you should be enjoying your food, not just swallowing it. The more time you spend savoring your food, the quicker your reach satiety, so you’ll not only enjoy your food more while eating less.