Originally published in our Spring 2012 newsletter and on Kate’s blog
The cornerstone of eating healthy is to prepare your food yourself! More and more people are eating out every day and sometimes multiple times per day and the result is that we eat processed foods that are exponentially higher in sugar, salt, preservatives, and fillers and much lower in nutrients than anything we could make at home!
Here are some tips and tricks for cooking delicious homemade food quickly and easily.
1. Learn to live without (or with far less) sugar
Processed sugar is not a necessity of life and in fact is a food that we as humans are only made to have in small quantities occasionally. Sugar depresses your immune system, encourages accumulation of belly fat, alters your brain function, promotes inflammation (and pain!) and contributes to all major chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc). But this is a topic to be explored in another blog…
Luckily, there are so many ways to reduce the processed sugar we eat! One important step is to simply fill up on nutritious foods and stop eating desserts. Another is to get your sweet fix in healthier ways, by substituting other types of sweeteners, baking healthier, and using other foods, such as fruit, for that sweet fix.
My favourite substitute for sugar in baking in vegetable glycerine, which I use in many of the recipes on my website. Vegetable glycerine doesn’t spike blood sugar because it isn’t sugar, but it does taste very sweet so you don’t need as much of it to get that sweet taste. You can also mix it with other natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or agave depending on your taste. But remember, the idea is to significantly reduce your sugar intake!
2. Cook in batches
The first rule of cooking and eating mostly homemade food is to cook more than you need (sometimes much more!). For example:
- Cook double or triple the portions at each meal so you have leftovers for future meals
- Cook a chicken/turkey/roast/soup and package and/or freeze portions
- Make veggies in batches to use throughout the week, such as blanching greens to make salads or as part of a meal
- Prepare snacks and store in small containers to grab when needed, such as cut and washed veggies (carrots, celery, peppers, etc), fruit (grapes, berries, mango, etc), nuts and seeds
3. Buy in bulk
This can mean literally buying bulk foods, but it can also mean buying a large amount of food and spacing it out. One way that I do this is to buy a roast chicken (which is way too big for one meal for me) then cut it up and place portions small ziploc snack bags. This makes a really easy meal if I need it – I can just pull a snack bag out of the freezer (which will thaw a bit within 10-15 minutes), reheat the chicken, and make a wrap or mix with rice for a quick meal.
You can do this with lots of different prepared foods you find at the grocery store or restaurants. You can even do this when you eat out – get a takeout container when you get your plate at a restaurant and immediately put half your meal in it to take home for leftovers!
4. Learn to make your own substitutes
One of the biggest pitfalls to a healthy diet is snacking – everyone has their favourite sweet or salty snacks that they can’t resist buying. For me, it is anything chocolate and even if I try to make healthier choices (that usually being chocolate covered almonds), I just don’t feel as good when I eat snacks that I buy at the store.
The solution that has worked best for me is to learn to make my own snacks that approximate/substitute for the snacks I love best. I have several recipes for baked goods that work well for me – give some of these a try:
- Walnutty chocolate: Amazing chocolate fudge as a vehicle for fibre and nuts
- Quinoatmeal cookies: high fibre oatmeal-like cookies, a hit with everyone
- Antioxidant brownies: dense, moist, dark chocolate brownies
- Ultimate chocolate chip cookies: a healthier take on a traditional favourite
- Simple almond cookies: great for elimination diet and tasty too
Or, if you have a particular favourite food or snack, start experimenting with how to make it yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Make your own granola using whole food ingredients like dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, coconut, and rolled oats.
- Crave crunch? Try high fibre crackers (I like Mary’s) and nut butter. I recommend homemade walnut butter for more omega 3 fats. You can also use almond, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, cashew, or peanut butter. Make sure to read ingredients and get brands without sweeteners or fillers.
- Make a superfood smoothie for your fruit fix.
- Buy fresh fruit and cut it up to make fruit salad (my personal favourite is fresh mango with raspberries).
- Like bacon? Try turkey bacon – not the greatest, but a better choice! Read ingredients carefully to avoid nitrites/sulfites, which are carcinogenic!
- Like chocolate milk? Try almond (or rice or soy) milk and chocolate protein powder!
- Bake your own banana bread or muffins.
- Like chips or french fries? Make your own at home or, even better, make kale chips or sweet potato chips or sweet potato or veggie fries.
- Like beef jerky? Make your own using a dehydrator!
- Do you miss ice cream? Make your own at home or, even better, make your own sorbet.
- Crave a burger? Make your own from ground beef/bison/turkey/whatever favourite meat and add onions, garlic, spices, etc to taste. You can freeze these and cook quickly for lunch or dinner. Also consider making meatballs!