Let’s accept it today we are using the gas stove less and less and microwave (to reheat) more and more. Simply put we are cooking less and ordering in or eating out more. And that is not doing us any good. In fact one change that can make a world of a difference to your weight and health status is: eating more home cooked food.
That’s because we just cannot control (for sure) both the quality and the quantity of the ingredients when it is not cooked at home. When you dine out, it's tough to know exactly what's on your plate. Can you ever guess just how much oil (and which one) was used to make the eggplant, and whether or not mono sodium glutamate (MSG) was added to your Chinese stir fry? You can’t right!
So obviously your unsaturated vs saturated fats (or omega 3 vs omega 6) ratio gets badly skewed, and salt intake goes up substantially too. All this matters specially when we are talking about long run (multiple meals over a lifetime), as the damages obviously add up.
When you cook at home, you have more control. You can choose the ingredients that go into making your food and can consciously pick up those that are higher in fibre and lower in salt, sugar and calories.
Calories obviously go haywire too.
Consider this: a bowl of oats with milk (120 calories), some coffee/ tea (30 calories) and an apple (70 calories) will total up to a breakfast of 220 odd calories. Whereas if you choose to stop by at the neighbouring cafe before going to work, and have a latte (200 calories) and a bagel (250 calories), it’ll total up to 450 calories. A good 230 calories extra! And this is just one meal we are talking about.
Lunches and dinners out can be even more expansive calorie wise. And snacking is possibly the worst offender of all. Your mum’s parantha that you turned your nose at in the morning, saying it is too oily would have given you only 1/3rd of the calories and fat than that small packet of chips you ate to curb the hunger while making that presentation.
Then there is the issue about portion size. We usually polish off the heaping portions served in the restaurants (or of takeaways), even if they are a little too large for our comfort. But when we cook, it is easier to stick to smaller (correct) portions. Reducing the portions really adds up the weight loss.
So do your body a favour by stepping into your kitchen for a home-cooked meal, for as many meals as possible. Its time to bring back the age old program - home food is the best - for the sake of our health.
If you are thinking - but where’s the time? Three meals a day, seven days a week, four weeks a month. Well, here’s help. You can spend less time in the kitchen but make that time count!
Some Basic Tips
- Always work with a menu plan – it’ll save money, reduce trips to the market, and also helps you use leftovers efficiently.
- Explore the idea of washing and cut your vegetables in the morning and freezing them so that you have them ready for cooking when you return from work.
- Many dishes can be made in advance. Got guests coming? Serve them a chicken baked dish made a night before. Works perfectly fine.
Buy the Right Tools
Don’t scrimp here otherwise you’ll end up loosing a lot of time.
- Stock up enough proper style pots, pans, trays, and utensils and gadgets.
- Sharp, quality knives will save you a lot of time and frustration, so will kitchen scissors.
- Multiple cutting boards help. Instead of chopping, cleaning and chopping again, you can get done with work quickly and also avoid cross contamination.
- Anyone who cooks a lot of pasta must definitely have a colourful colander.
- Get a rice cooker too. Pour in some dry rice, a little bit of water, and just close the lid. In around 20 minutes a perfectly cooked batch of rice is ready (no need for ready made roti packets). Or add some cooked meat or veggies and some seasoning to rice and create a meal in a jiffy. Plus most rice cookers come with steamer racks that allow you to steam vegetables without any hassle. In fact, you can even steam your veggies while the rice is cooking.
- Get a good food processor (a combined blender, grater, masher, slicer, dicer and a few more things all in one package). A food processor can make the tedious work of slicing, dicing, shredding, grating and chopping – a breeze, especially for large quantities of food. And preparing a healthy and good dinner on a busy evening becomes easy as prep time gets cut extensively (Need 2 cups chopped onions? It’ll take just 10 seconds!).
- Also a sprout maker: jay put the whole grams or lentils inside the perforated pan and watch it sprout in a day’s time
- Finally get a good set of storage containers. All your bulk shopping can sit down properly sorted out all in different containers and you can plan you.r weekly meals better.
8 Easy and Quick Meal Tips
- Make soup fixings by adding 2 cup broth to about 2 1/2 cup vegetable chunks - potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. Put these in for 30 seconds and blend.
- Use a juicer to make the lauki [white long gourd] juice and use the pulp for making a raita [a side yoghurt dish]. Garnish the ‘raita’ with some spluttered-in-oil mustard seeds.
- Make a quick drinkable breakfast. Take firm tofu, frozen strawberries, wheat germ and 1 banana. Combine ingredients, puree well, and enjoy.
- Mince salmon with cream cheese to make a spread.
- Puree leftovers to make baby food.
- Turn extra-ripe cherries, melon, or tomatoes into a cold soup in a blender.
- Grate chocolate in bulk - enough to sprinkle over the cupcakes for your dinner party.
- Put some raw almonds, some water, molasses, a little honey, and a dried date into the mini-blender. In seconds have a delicious spread for your toast.
Trust me it’s a myth that eating sensibly is tedious and dull. In truth, a healthy diet contains plenty of delicious and satisfying foods. And cooking is easier than you think. So make this change – cook more – and see the difference (both on your wallet and weight).
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa))
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