Home cooking

How to Turn Cooking at Home Into a Habit

Ok, it’s time to talk about it. Yes, that excuse that often pushes many of us who are cooking for one or two, away from reaching our nutrition goals. In many of our posts we mention that a successful healthy meal plan involves planning, and is often much easier to maintain when eating home cooked meals. No matter what, you can’t compare a home cooked meal to that found in a restaurant simply because when eating out you can’t have full control over the ingredients and the amounts of them used in your meal We understand that it’s challenging to cook for one or two. Follow our tips and you too, will learn the secrets to making it possible and enjoyable.

Getting successfully “on track” when cooking for yourself or you and another individual
Begins with early planning of your weekly meals. It is important to decide in advance what you will be having for your meals, or to have a general idea. Knowing what you will be cooking allows you to buy the proper ingredients and amounts that will not go to waste, and will make following a recipe easier since you can make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand.

Shop according to your needs.
If you are new to cooking for just yourself or for a small number of people, altering your shopping habits may require some getting used to. This can happen when you and your partner first become empty nesters, when you move away from a large family, or if you are just starting out on your own. Try shopping with another individual- such as a family member, friend or close neighbor to share those items that come bulk quantities. Generally, small size, or individually packed items tend to cost more, so this is a way to save money.

Don’t over-visit the store
The fact that you are cooking for yourself, or for you and one more, doesn’t mean you have to hit the store every single day. Instead, aim to shop once or twice a week at the most. Not only will this save you money and time, but will alleviate the likelihood of buying unhealthy little snacks.

Plan to store
Sometimes modifying the number of servings a recipe yields is easy, but sometimes it can be tricky. If you come across a recipe you are interested in trying, or are cooking a dish of your own that is hard to cook in small portions, after cooking, divide the dish into desired and appropriate portions and store the remainder for use later in the freezer. You can easily use Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers by writing the name of the food cooked and dating it.

Make healthy foods easily accessible
Aim to make healthy food items easily accessible for a meal or as a “grab and go”. For instance, cut up a few vegetables or make a salad without dressing that you can easily access for several meals. Another idea is to combine different kinds of berries into a large bowl and take out of the refrigerator as needed.

It isn’t as difficult as it may seem and is well worth the effort. Enjoy!

Photo of a table top full of fresh vegetables fruit and other healthy foods.

Simple and Healthy Cooking – How to

By: Hila Aran, MSc, RDN

You don’t need a degree in nutrition science or be a top chef to cook healthy. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare food in healthy ways and save on fat and calories. In fact, you can even preserve important nutrients.

Keep in mind that 1 tablespoon of oil has about 100 calories. Think about how many calories you can be saving yourself just by being more aware to how often and how much of it you use! My first tip to you for healthy and simple cooking is to measure fats used in your diet instead of pouring them directly. In general fats from animal sources, also known as saturated fats, are less healthy than those from vegetables sources also known as unsaturated fats. Try to avoid butter, cream, margarine and lard and opt instead for vegetable, canola, corn, olive oils, etc.

Every type of fat has a smoke point, at which you will notice smoke rising from the surface of the fat when heated. Fats with a higher smoke point are better to use for high heat applications such as frying or sautéing. Examples of these include canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and corn oil.

The temperatures at which foods are cooked / fried, and time they require, can also impact fat absorption. Foods cooked at lower temperatures usually take more time and absorb more fat.

Here are some steps you can take to lower your fat intake when cooking and baking:

  • Use substitutes- Some substitutes have similar properties to fats when cooking and baking and thus can be used as an alternative. For example, pureed cannelloni beans have been found to be a satisfactory substitute for shortening when making brownies. Likewise, plum puree and applesauce can be used as substitutes for fats in baked goods. Egg whites can be used instead of whole eggs.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and low fat cheese.
  • Use nonstick pots and pans.
  • Roast or broil your foods. During these processes fats melts and are reduced.

Nutritionally, vegetables are rich in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and other important vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in phytochemicals and low in calories when compared to other foods. Vegetables can lose some of their nutritional content during storage, preparation and cooking. In general baking, steaming, stir-frying and leaving the skin on when cooking helps retain nutrients to a greater extent. In order to maintain as many nutrients as possible opt for methods such as steaming, roasting, or broiling. You may also choose to use the juices as a soup or gravy. These methods preserve vitamins and minerals, and enhance flavors and colors.

Following are tips to increase nutrient intake from vegetables when cooking and baking:

  • Serve vegetables immediately after cooking to maintain quality and lessen vitamin loss.
  • Increase consumption and enhance flavors by using a variety of healthy cooking methods as described above.
  • Use seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your cooking process when possible, but feel free to use frozen or canned fruits and vegetables if needed.
  • Decrease the time from preparation to consumption of raw fruits and vegetables in order to lower nutritional losses.

 

 

Clumsy attractive woman falling plates and dishes in her kitchen room

Making Your Kitchen a “Safe Zone”: Simple, Easy and Bacteria Free

By: Hila Aran, MSc, RDN

Often our blog posts revolve around food and diet but let us not forget that your health comes first. There are several ways in which you can make sure your kitchen is safe for you and your entire family:

  1. Smart shopping. When you go to the grocery store this is your first step to ensure your kitchen is a safe zone. Make sure your choice of supermarket is one that carries products that come from credible sources and stores its products and produce safely. Dairy, meat and poultry, eggs and other items should be stored in cold temperatures. Produce should be fresh and stacked neatly. Make sure to place raw meat away from your produce in your cart, on the belt and in the packaging stage to prevent cross contamination of bacteria.
  2. Have a plan. Since there are some food items that are sensitive to warmer temperatures, and even room temperature, it is important to make sure you don’t leave them in this “danger zone” in which they have the potential to develop bacterial growth and to become contaminated. If you know you have a few stops to make on the way between your shopping spree and the time you get home, pack a cooler with ice packs to keep your food cool and prevent it from spoiling.
  3. Expand your collection of cutting boards. One way in which you can make sure your kitchen stays safe, as well as your family, is by using different cutting boards for different foods. This helps prevent cross contamination or the translocation of bacteria, from one food item to another. Ideally, you should have separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetable, fish and seafood, poultry and meat. Every so often it is recommended to wash your boards with bleach and not just with soap and water.
  4. Thaw your food wisely. Foods taken out of the freezer, especially fish and meat products should never be thawed on your counter top. Instead, plan ahead so they have enough time to thaw in the refrigerator, in a microwave if will be cooked immediately afterwards, or thawed under running water at a temperature of 70° F or below.
  5. Store your foods right. Storing your food properly not only keeps you safe and healthy, but can also save you big bucks. Your dry ingredients should ideally be stored in a clean cabinet with cool temperatures ranging between 50-79 ° Rotate your stock. Store your items in a way that will allow you to use the older ones first, and the newer ones later. What comes in first should be the first to come out. Items that need to be stored in the refrigerator require a bit more thought since often they are more sensitive. Foods should be placed in the fridge in the following order, from top to bottom; Ready to eat items, fish, meat, ground meat and lastly chicken.
  6. Leave the pesticides behind. Make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables with soap and water before use. Some are more sensitive and may accumulate pesticides and unwanted little friends such as strawberries, cabbage or lettuce.
  7. Know when to part from your leftovers. While we all love leftovers and I actually encourage you to bring them home when ordering a meal at a restaurant, leftovers should be discarded after two days.
  8. Keep it cooked. Different kinds of meats and seafood should be cooked at specified temperatures for a minimal time to make sure they are safe for you to consume: Fish, shellfish, pork, beef ,lamb and veal should be cooked at 145° F, ground beef should be cooked at 155° F and poultry should be cooked at 165° F for a minimum of 15 seconds to destroy harmful bacteria.
  9. Eat and store. One common misconception is to leave foods you just cooked to cool down before placing them in the refrigerator. This actually increases the chance of your food to sit in the danger zone of temperatures of 41-135 ° Instead, place your food in the refrigerator. Don’t worry, it will not overheat your fridge or cause other foods to spoil.
  10. Your rag and sponge are replaceable. Did you know that your kitchen rag/ sponge is one of the places in your home with the most bacteria on them? Leave the separation anxiety behind and replace them often.

 

Let’s get to work and make your kitchen a safer and healthier environment for everyone to enjoy!

 

Brownies with peanut butter in a cage Diet concept

Borders and Boundaries: From the United Nations to your plate

“How can I be successful with my diet?” Is this a question that often runs through your head? I believe that we all want to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle, but when it comes to nutrition we lose touch with one very important tool to help us succeed – the physical, cognitive, and emotional tool of eating within the boundaries we set for ourselves.

Let’s first address how we view borders and boundaries as adults. Many of us automatically associate these words with a negative connotation. For example, we may associate limit setting and boundaries with raising children, and educating them as to what they can and cannot do. Or picture a fence dividing two countries. Perhaps, we might even think of boundaries as something prohibited. As so, we might relate to boundaries in a similarly negative way when it comes to our diet plan. For example, one might think “Oh, I can’t have that!” or “This is not permitted in my diet plan”. Notice that in all of the above examples boundaries are set and shown in a negative way which sets us up to fail in our efforts to make a real change. Instead, use these boundaries and limitations positively in your weight loss plan. Putting boundaries and limitations in place actually allow us freedom and choices in our weight loss process, leading us to succeed in our diet.

With the overflow of information available to most of us online, together with everyone we meet offering us nutritional advice, it is not easy to set boundaries and limitations in our eating habits and makes it even harder for us to be consistent with our choices. Often, this information overflow causes us to constantly change our program, one day believing we should be vegan, the next day deciding to cut out all bread, and two days later avoiding all dairy products. This is why it is important to keep in mind these 5 tips:

  • Healthy nutrition is a function of reorganizing. First, stop and think about the changes we want to make. Only then, can we truly start the process. We need to think in terms of baby steps: “What changes can I start with that will work for me, yet not rock my world?” Keep in mind that changes that are too big and difficult for us to handle actually prevent success in our weight loss efforts
  • “Every limit or border set should be in place at all times”. For example, if one of your goals is to eat mindfully at the kitchen table instead of in front of the television, or straight from the pot, than this should be implemented without question and at every meal.
  • Think about how many times you tell yourself “NO” when it comes to food. Instead, train yourself to say, “No, but…”, or even better, talk to yourself in a positive fashion. Instead of saying “I am not allowed to eat chocolate” train yourself to instead say, “I should eat a piece of fruit for dessert as it is healthy”.
  • Give yourself positive feedback. Often times we notice our poor decisions rather our good ones. Similarly, it is often easier to see our negative qualities rather than notice our positive ones. Take the time to acknowledge the good decisions you make in your weight loss effort. They go a long way.
  • Remember that we often have less control when eating outside of our home. Since we can’t impose our limitations and boundaries on others, it is important to learn to handle these situations in order to remain in control of ourselves even when we are not in control of the situation. This can be done by setting expectations and visualizing success.

Sticking with a weight loss plan is not easy because, let’s face it, most of us like to eat and enjoy food. However, if you set boundaries wisely you will find this process is both easier and more enjoyable.

 

New-Year-New-You

Weight Loss Resolutions Done Right

As a registered dietitian, one of the issues that I notice many of us face in the desire for health and weight loss is that many of us look for easy and quick solutions to achieve a preferred weight. Often times these effortless solutions are advertised quite well on the TV, radio or internet, making them hard to avoid and resist. In fact, some are advertisements for products or diets that are impossible to maintain or have no scientific backing to support them. The problem with these diets, weight loss pills or even weight loss gadgets is that results are hard to maintain, and if unsupervised, often can cause damage to ones health in the process. If your New Year’s resolution is to live healthier and lose weight the right way, this blog post is just for you.

Baby steps
In my opinion, one of the most important things to keep in mind when changing a lifestyle or starting a weight loss plan is to remember that this process should be looked at, as a “marathon”, not a “sprint”. This means that in most cases, you will encounter ups and downs, will need to practice your behavior, and take this process step by step to achieve your desired goal. The path to being able to keep the lost weight off, or maintain your newly developed health habits, should be built by setting realistic and specific goals which will help you move forward, yet not be too hard to achieve.

Get your fans on board
If you were actually running a marathon, wouldn’t you like your family and friends cheering you on or meeting you at the finish line?
Discuss your health and weight loss goals with those who impact your everyday life. Not only will you enjoy their encouragement, but will be surprised how long their support in your efforts goes. Sharing your efforts with them may get their support regarding certain tempting foods that you wish not to bring into your home, may get them “on the same page” when it comes to a healthy cooking style or may even to agree to a healthier choice of restaurants when dinning out.

Turn your efforts social
Making and accepting any kind of change can be a challenge. This is especially true when it comes to our eating habits. I do, however, find that making change with others makes the process a little easier. Take actions to maintain an active lifestyle by joining a physical activity you enjoy with a friend or partner, join weight loss support groups that meet on a regular basis, or even reach out online to individuals who share your efforts. In addition, make your shopping trip or cooking into a social affair and enjoy it.

The finish line
I used to hear others say “everyone is built in a different way” and be annoyed with that sentence. Regardless how hard it may be for us to accept this fact, it’s true. It is important to understand your body’s limitations going into a weight loss process, and understand that your body has a set point with which it is comfortable with that may be different than your best friend’s or your siblings’. Set a goal and set measurable objectives so you know when you have reached your goal. There is no better feeling than accomplishing something you worked hard for.

Keep yourself motivated and excited about the process
Often times I ask people who did not complete a weight loss plan, why they quit. Upon further analysis, I conclude that the plan wasn’t “working” anymore because they simply got bored with it. Since this is a common phenomenon, I believe in providing clients with tools on how to make healthier food choices as opposed to telling them what choices are better. Keep your plan interesting by trying new foods, cooking new recipes, participating in different physical activities, and acknowledge your accomplishments early on.

Starting a weight loss program may be easy, but the trick is to be able to stick to the plan. Remember that baby steps are key and that if you lose the weight too fast without changing your eating habits, most likely you will put all that weight back on just as fast. Use our tools to help you focus on your goal and you too, will reach your finish line.