Making time in your busy schedule to prepare meals at home can be beneficial for you, your health, and your success in losing and maintaining a healthy weight. Having a plan that involves preparing healthy, fresh food is important for long-term success and a well-stocked kitchen that is set up so you can work efficiently will add to your success and enjoyment. Try some of these tips and you are sure to enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen.
Tools for the Kitchen
A set of measuring spoons and measuring cups, both liquid and dry, are essential especially if you are a “cook by the book” type of person. You will also need them for measuring your portion sizes to ensure you are getting proper nutrition in the proper amounts.
Knives that are sharp and comfortable to work with will save you time and frustration. These knives don’t have to be expensive and there are many brands to choose from. You will be chopping, slicing, and dicing colorful, fresh vegetables and preparing mixed salads with meats, poultry and fish. Cutting boards and mixing bowls are very much needed to assist you with preparing these healthy meals.
A well-functioning kitchen will include a good blender and food processor. Typically, a blender is used for liquids and a food processor is used for solid foods. These tools will be helpful in preparing soups and healthy sauces along with grating and slicing.
A set of non-stick pots and pans are important because you don’t have to use as much oil to cook with. Slow cookers can save time and produce very flavorful and moist results. Don’t forget about steamers. Boiling vegetables reduces their vitamin and minerals content not to mention flavor. Steamers also work great for shellfish, mollusks, even fish! Pop them in, set the timer and it does the rest for you including keeping it warm with overcooking.
A box grater and zester are handy tools to grate fresh spices, shred cheese, and zest citrus fruits. Spoons and spatulas are helpful when mixing and stirring your wonderful creations.
Stocking the Cupboards
Filling your cupboards with your favorite seasonings and spices is a must when cooking at home. Try new spices to old favorite foods to “shake things up” and give variety to your meals.
When 70% of your meals come from protein foods, it’s a good idea to have lean choices of meat, chicken, turkey, and fish on hand at all times. These choices can be canned or kept in your refrigerator or freezer.
Don’t forget about tofu. This great plant source of protein can take on many different flavors and is very versatile; it can be grilled, sautéed, pureed, baked, and much more. Freezing then thawing and marinating tofu enables the tofu to absorb more flavor from the marinade.
Keep a few cans of different kinds of beans in your pantry. They are great sources of protein and work great in many recipes. If beans cause discomfort from gas, know that the more you eat beans, the better your body gets at breaking down the oligosaccharides (small chain carbohydrates) that cause the gas.
When Time is Limited
Multitasking in the kitchen is an easy, efficient way to prepare healthy meals at home. The easiest way to multitask is to plan your meals ahead of time. Knowing what you’re going to make allows you to think about other things you could make with the same ingredients. For example, if you’re making turkey meatloaf why not also make up some turkey burgers to freeze for later or add some beans, tomatoes and spices, and create a great chili dish? If you are preparing chicken, cook a little extra to go on top of a salad for lunch the next day.
Taking advantage of appliances that cook food slowly is another way of multitasking. While you have one recipe cooking in the slow cooker, begin making another. You’ll have two recipes going at once, and it will feel like you’re doing one.
Freezing foods in individual servings allows you to make one, two, or even three recipes at one time and in bulk, for you to grab and go later in the week. Preparing food on one day a week also will free up time and ensure you will have a healthful meal already prepared and in the correct portions waiting for you every day of the week. This is especially helpful when weekdays and time are limited.
1Furtado, Margaret, MS, RD. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery. New York, New York: Penguin Group Inc., 2009