No time to cook? Resolve to bypass the processed and fast food junk by trying some ideas that will make healthy cooking at home easy and even fun.
According to Psychology Today, only about 10 percent of those who make New Year resolutions actually keep them. And among the resolutions made, weight loss, improved diet and increased exercise are often at the top of the list. So why are these resolutions so hard to accomplish? And why are they so frightening? Well, perhaps it’s the enormity of the task that makes it seem so formidable.
So why not set smaller goals that allow you to visualize your progress and feel rewarded for your effort? For example, many of my obese patients need to lose upwards of 70 pounds. When faced with the need for that kind of weight loss, it may feel frightening and impossible to achieve. A more realistic approach is to set shorter goals. By focusing on losing five pounds each month (small compared to the ultimate objective), it’s so much easier to visualize and therefore much easier to accomplish.
The same applies to dietary change. When it comes to cooking, many of my single patients avoid cooking, even a simple meal. They think it’s too complicated and time consuming. Why attempt to make a meal at home when fast food is so quick and inexpensive?
Well if these thoughts resonate with you, perhaps it’s time to rethink priorities and reconsider what effort it really takes to prepare a meal. If you can place food in a microwave oven and set the timer, turn on a conventional oven, boil water, or even open a bag of frozen or fresh food, then you can certainly prepare a healthy meal — inexpensively and with practically no effort.
Here are some ideas that will improve your resolution to eat right:
–Buying frozen fruit or vegetables can avoid food sitting in the refrigerator too long and spoiling. Some frozen food can last for months and you can just thaw them in the microwave or refrigerator when ready to use.
–Steaming vegetables is a healthy cooking technique that preserves most vitamins and minerals. A vegetable steamer is perfect for this, or you can place two or three tablespoons of water in a small pot and bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat, add the vegetables and cover. Steam for about 5-minutes, or until tender. Check periodically until you’re comfortable with the texture. You don’t want to steam too long or the vegetables will be soft and tasteless.
–To bake a potato, first rinse it in cold water, prick it a few times with a fork, and then wrap it in tin foil. Place the potato in the oven (on the center rack) and bake for approximately 60-75 minutes at 400 degrees, or until you can insert a fork easily. Of course, adding salt, butter and/or sour cream increases the calorie and fat content. So try it plain, or with low fat, low calorie additives, such as tomato salsa to enhance the taste. A plain potato is delicious by itself and something you can definitely develop a taste for. If you want a crispier skin, eliminate the foil and reduce the cooking time.
–Brown rice is a simple, healthy side dish. Just start with a package of pre-cooked, frozen brown rice (available at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods). Each box contains three pouches with two servings each. Place a single pouch in the microwave oven for about 2 ½ minutes and then portion out half of the contents. Refrigerate what you don’t eat for the next day. If switching to all brown rice is problematic, consider mixing half-brown and half-white rice to start.
–You can also use the brown rice to make rice and beans, a complete protein. Place one cup of beans in a pot of boiling water, and periodically test the texture to assure that the beans aren’t too soggy (lentils take about 10 minutes). Pour off the water and add one pouch of the microwaved brown rice. Mix the two ingredients and add dill, garlic, onions, raisins or any other ingredient you like to enhance the taste. Serve with a salad, keeping the dressing on the side to reduce calories. Refrigerate what you don’t eat. It will be good for several days and can be reheated later. Makes about 3-4 portions.
–There’s no reason to avoid cooking a chicken breast either. Take a thawed, skinless breast, rinse it in cold water, and place it in a baking pan or ceramic dish. Then take a bottle of Soy Vay Toasted Sesame Dressing (available in most markets) and pour about ½ cup over the chicken. Place the pan in a 350-degree oven and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. To assure the meat is done, cut into it and check the color. If it’s still slightly pink, cook for another five-10 minutes. The secret is not to overcook.
–Fish is a healthy, low-fat protein. If cooking filets is too overwhelming to contemplate, consider using light tuna or wild salmon canned in water and add it to a salad. Or use it on a sandwich, but don’t mix the fish with a high-fat mayonnaise. Use a low or non-fat version, Miracle Whip, or even mustard. Then refrigerate the leftovers.
–Salmon or tuna patties make a nice entree. Simply open a can of wild salmon or light tuna. Pour off the water, and place the fish in a bowl. Add two egg whites and mix the ingredients well. Dice one quarter of an onion and add to the previous ingredients. Add some spices if you wish (I like to add about 1 tsp of dill weed). Then take either ½ cup of whole wheat bread crumbs or cut a piece of whole wheat bread into tiny cubes and fold into the other ingredients. Use your hands to mold the mixture into two patties and place on a baking dish sprayed with PAM (to prevent sticking). Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until firm.
–A frequent concern for singles is what to do with the leftovers. Most recipes are designed for more than one serving. So portion whatever leftovers you have and place them in baggies or plastic containers. Refrigerate or freeze for future use, or re-portion the ingredients in the recipe for a single serving. This is easily accomplished by dividing each ingredient by the number of servings the recipe is designed for.
–Lastly, eliminate snacks that are high in sugar and calories. Try hummus with baby carrots or choose whole-grain crackers with peanut butter and banana slices. They’re both tasty and so much healthier.
The above is simply a starter list, so use it to stimulate your imagination. Then as your technique improves, experiment with more complex preparations, perhaps even picking out a favorite recipe to cook for yourself. Alternately, you can Google “meals for singles” or purchase cookbooks designed for beginners, such as The Four Ingredient Cookbooks.
So take the leap now and resolve to cook healthier meals at home and reduce the consumption of fast food. It could add years to your life and your body will love you for it. Bon Appétit!
Copyright © Art Kress/2020 Singular Communications, LLC.
Art Kress has been a registered dietitian for the last seven years, and during that time has worked with outpatients at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital and the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has served as president of the Los Angeles Dietetic Association (LAD) and is a current nominee for president of the California Dietetic Association (CDA).