Despite the ample food supplies available to most of us, a large percentage of the U.S. population undercuts itself nutritionally. Fruit and vegetable consumption is way down among Americans, many of whom go a week or more without consuming either.
While most of us prefer to eat home cooked meals, more often than not frozen meals, take-out and fast food are showing up at the dinner table. Most people want to spend as little time as possible preparing meals.
We also like to eat quickly. Few American families sit down to elaborate meals these days except on special occasions, and most make grocery purchases spontaneously without basing their shopping on particular recipes or meal plans.
This leads to waste – wasted dollars and wasted food. People often buy a particular food with the best intentions, but get home and decide that the preparation is just too time consuming, or that they aren’t really sure how to prepare it. We rarely focus on meal preparation, and few of us take the time to gather at the table and savor our food. Instead, we’re busy eating our meals while completing a secondary task, like watching television or checking Email. The art of creative cooking and lingering over a delicious dinner idea is slipping away.
But nutrition and health experts are trying to steer us back to the concept of healthy, home cooked meals. They’re making it easy by offering plenty of useful tips on creating meals from foods you already have in the fridge and pantry, and offering creative options to making leftovers more appealing. When we prepare our own meals, regardless of whether they’re from scratch or incorporate canned and frozen foods, thinking more about what we’re consuming and what our families are consuming is the cornerstone to establishing healthy eating habits.
The recommendations are pretty straight forward: always make a grocery list before you head out to shop, and then stick to it. Chances are you have heard that tip more than once in the past, but the trick here is actually doing it. Avoid purchasing food spontaneously. Keep a list of staples that are versatile and healthy, and you will always have the makings of a meal at your fingertips.
Prepare a meal plan several days or even a week in advance, and learn to adapt recipes to fit the items you have on hand if you’re missing an ingredient. For instance, frozen broccoli will work just as well as the fresh variety in a casserole. And if you hate the idea of coming home from work and cooking, prepare portions of your meals in advance so that it’s simply a matter of adding the finishing touches to enjoy a home cooked meal with your family.
If you can, eat at least one meal per day at the dining room or kitchen table. Go ahead and turn off your television and put the cell phone aside. Mealtime should be spent relaxing and enjoying the opportunity for meaningful family time. Make the most of the opportunity.
The idea of a home cooked meal every night may seem foreign to many, especially younger people. But once you have learned to prepare simple, delicious meals with ingredients that you have on hand, you might be surprised to discover the fun of cooking and serving a tasty dish that you can enjoy with your family.