A key strategy to successfully implement this year’s Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month theme, Take a 100 meal journey, one meal at a time, is to prepare your eats at home. Homemade fare makes it easy to make simple modifications to improve your nutritional profile. It’s almost effortless to add some frozen berries to your morning yogurt if you’re not picking up your breakfast at the drive-thru. The same goes for adding a handful of chick peas to your salad or packing in lots of vegetables into your sandwich.
Cooking, though, is becoming a lost art. It used to be thought of as a woman’s job. After all, someone had to prepare the food for the family and the woman was the one at home. These skills were always passed down from mother to daughter. But, as both sexes took on different roles, kitchens were no longer the woman’s domain alone. Then somewhere along the way, we started living life in the fast lane and food companies were only too happy to provide what they thought of as sustenance. The result? In many families, food preparation skills have vanished while the use of fare prepared outside home – restaurants and packaged foods- has skyrocketed.
But for the sake of our health, both physical and emotional, it’s time to get back to basics. It’s time to value cooking as a life skill. In schools nowadays, math, science, literacy and computer competence, to name a few, all seem to take priority over food preparation but in fact, learning to cook can incorporate the opportunities to hone an assortment of skills including those above, not to mention also reap health benefits.
School boards need to reinstate home economics. Consider this: homemade eats are vital to the ability to achieve nutrition recommendations.
Just look at how much sodium we consume. According to a recent survey, we’re consuming a daily average of more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium . (1500 milligrams is the daily recommendation and 2300 milligrams is the maximum). The culprit is processed foods which deliver a staggering 77% of that sodium.
Homemade eats can slash sodium totals in a flash. Meeting fibre quotas is also an easier task when whole foods are used as is meeting the suggested number of servings of foods such as vegetables and fruit with their bounty of disease-fighting compounds. Cooking meals also puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of calories. Large portions and too much fat and sugar can all go hand in hand with prepared food.
Knowing your way around the kitchen can make daily meal prep an easy task and help to avoid the temptation of reaching for packaged ultra-processed food. Cooking real food need not take a huge bite out of your time, especially as not many people have hours to spend preparing meals. And you don’t need to shun all convenience foods. Instead use healthy convenience items to cut food prep time significantly.
Meal planning is also vital so that the ingredients for various dishes are on hand. In addition, it helps you to not waste cooking opportunities. If you’re cooking chicken breasts for dinner one night, double the amount and plan to use the extra in a salad or casserole, the next night. Leftover cooked grains such as quinoa or farro can be frozen or mixed together with a variety of vegetables and some protein for a quick lunch the next day.
Cutting down on food waste is another perk of meal planning. When you’ve planned to get a few meals out of what you’ve cooked, you’re more in control when it comes to the leftovers.
Up next: Equipping your pantry and the scoop on processed food.