Back to basics

By: Health Local Staff Jan 25, 2012
nutrition basics

Preparing your own food doesn't have to be difficult. The key is to plan ahead!

Our parents and grandparents (depending on our age) cooked all their food from scratch, using fresh cuts of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. The notion of using anything that was laden with antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones or that was genetically modified was neither available nor would it have even been considered. Even if they didn’t grow their own vegetables or raise livestock, there was trust that when they went shopping, they would return home with fresh food that was ready to cook and contained nothing but the goodness found in nature.

But then something changed. As societies began to grow and prosper, more women were working and although from an equality perspective, this is fantastic, from a health perspective, things went downhill. With both partners working, the idea of leaving work, going to the market to buy all the ingredients to make a “home cooked meal,” and then of course cooking said home cooked meal, was enough to wear a working girl out. With little time to eat healthful meals, the contents of shopping carts changed dramatically. Bags of spinach, bunches of broccoli, fresh herbs and spices, lean cuts of chicken, perfectly ripened tomatoes and gleaming heads of lettuce were replaced with cans, frozen foods and boxes with an ingredient list a mile long.

With the introduction of convenience in a bag, it bought otherwise tired people time to rest after a quick meal, rather than hours behind the stove following a long day at the office. It also brought with it a whole host of other problems.

Counting on the fact that most consumers look at the photo on the front and directions that communicate almost no time from microwave to plate, food manufactures have gotten away with putting all sorts of junk in their “food”. Trans fats, sodium in the 600+ mg range, corn syrup, and preservatives did what slow cooking for hours used to do: add flavor to food that resulted in that inevitable exclamation, “Thanks honey, this was delicious!”

Unfortunately, with all these ingredients, one thing we know is this: Obesity, diabetes, cancers, out of control cholesterol, and hypertension are all at alarming rates! Something’s gotta give, right?

Back to Basics
Indeed mom and grandma had the time to shop and prepare delicious meals for their families. Today men and women work equally long hours and if kids are in the picture, finding the time to cook is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, isn’t it?

Although you don’t have time to start a meal when you come home from work, there is a very easy solution.

Set aside one day to shop for groceries. First of all, scrutinize the ingredients list. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, it is probably not something your body needs. Put those veggies back in the cart and look for meat with the smallest percentage of fat. By law, packages have to list their ingredients and the butcher has to disclose the fat content. Buy herbs and spices and minimize the salt use. Whole grain pasta and brown rice tastes just as good and is far healthier than bleached flour and white rice. Buy enough food to prepare meals for five or six days.

Now that you have your ingredients, on Saturday or Sunday make all your favorite meals for the whole week. Freeze them and when you come home from work, you have something that is equal parts healthy, delicious and convenient.

If you don’t do this already, consider incorporating a glass of red wine with your meals. This helps to digest your meals but it’s also great for blood circulation. Rather than scarfing down dessert five nights a week, why not minimize that to two days and grab your spouse and go walking at least three nights a week? Think you won’t have the energy? Nonsense! No longer weighed down by sodium, trans fats and preservatives, you will have far more energy than you can imagine!

What You Can Look Forward To
Once you are cooking all of your own meals, you should notice three things: two fairly immediate and one the doctor will have to share with you. Don’t be surprised to lose weight – both water weight and fat. In losing weight, you’ll have a ton more energy than you did in years past. In six months, after you’ve been cooking all your own foods and being mindful of what you put in your body, don’t be shocked when your doctor tells you that your cholesterol and blood glucose are down and that you’re the healthiest you’ve been in a decade!

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at