“Does anybody cook anymore?” my friend asked recently. It’s a good question. It’s so easy to pick up fast food or take out food that no one really needs to cook anymore. That’s great if you’re short on time, but not so great if your goal is healthy eating.
The downside of ready-made food is that it usually has an excess of salt, sugar, and calories. When you cook your own meals, on the other hand, you control the ingredients. You decide how much salt goes in the soup, butter on the vegetables, and sugar in the oatmeal.
But home cooking requires some planning, and that’s a stumbling block for many people. To make it easier, nutrition experts at Harvard Medical School have created a new Special Health Report, The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.
In this report, nutrition editor Teresa Fung shares her passion for controlling her own diet by making meal-planning a habit. “I know many busy people with jobs and families who find the time once a week to plan some meals and make a shopping list. It’s easy if you get in the habit,” says Fung.
As you begin to shift toward preparing some of your meals at home, keep these tips in mind:
Set reasonable goals. If you currently eat take-out food on most days, start by planning a home cooked meal twice a week. That’s a manageable plan.
Pack in the fruits and vegetables. Look for recipes that include lots of vegetables. Minestrone soup, pasta primavera, and stir-fry shrimp or chicken with vegetables are good examples.
Get a system down. Once a week, on the same day, plan your menus and make a list of the foods you’ll need for your meals. Go shopping on the same day each week and set aside a regular day or two to cook. Sticking with this simple routine makes it less likely that you’ll get caught with no food at home and end up at the fast-food counter.
Check back each Wednesday for the next six seeks as two people who are following the 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating blog about their experiences. You can do the 6-Week Plan too, by ordering the Special Health Report online or in print.