Happy National Nutrition Month!
Want to eat better but don’t know where to start? The answer is closer than you think. It’s actually right around the corner- in your kitchen! In today’s convenience-minded society quick cheap options are abundant. Fast food, frozen premade meals, takeout, sugary drinks and pop-in-the-microwave options are everywhere you look. But often times, these foods are higher in calories, sodium, sugar, fat, refined carbohydrates and lacking in fiber and important nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. That’s why I advocate for a return to the kitchen! Filling up your fridge with ingredients (not premade meals!), so that you can create options for yourself and your family that are brimming with nutrients and much lower in sodium, added sugars and bizarre, funky ingredients and preservatives. Here are a few tips to get started!
- Make a plan: When there is a plan for dinner, it takes the decision making and guesswork out of the equation when it’s 5pm and everyone is hungry. Plan new recipes for days you have a little more time. You can also schedule in a leftover night and/or takeout night.
- Choose 1-2 familiar recipes and 1-2 new recipes: The internet is a veritable gold mine for delicious recipes. There are SO many different sites that have wonderful healthy recipes and tips for getting the best results. Check out down below for a short list of my favorite recipe blogs and cookbooks!
- Watch a cooking show or Youtube tutorial: sometimes all it takes is flipping on PBS to watch Julia Child or Emeril Lagasse to get inspired or learn something new. Watching cooking shows/tutorials can provide ideas and you may learn some cooking techniques as well!
- Follow the plate method: have you heard of the plate method? The plate method visual demonstrates how to balance our meals with protein, carbohydrate and vegetables. Fill 50% of your plate with a variety of vegetables, 25% of your plate with a quality protein source (think: fish, seafood, tofu, eggs, legumes, poultry, beef) and 25% of your plate with a starch/carbohydrate food, ideally a complex carbohydrate (think: brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, squash). This can help guide you as you plan recipes for the week.
- Use spices, herbs, citrus, garlic and ginger. Want your food to taste like it does in restaurants? Freshly minced garlic, a squeeze of fresh lemon, a handful of fresh parsley or a sprinkle of smoked paprika, not only do these items elevate your food in taste, they elevate your food in nutrition! Don’t be shy, experiment with your favorite spices and keep a few fresh herbs on hand in the fridge. Think a dish needs salt? It probably just needs a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to lift it up!
- Practice your knife skills and use the right tool for the right job. All too often we use dull knives or the wrong type of knife for what we are slicing. Keep your knives sharp by investing in a knife sharpener or getting them professionally sharpened a few times per year. Most of the time you should be using a chef’s knife (for cutting nearly all vegetables and protein foods). Use a paring knife for peeling mango, slicing small fruits like berries. Use a tomato knife for slicing tomatoes and citrus. And use a bread knife for slicing breads and cheese.
- Get the family involved: it’s never too early to get the kids in the kitchen. Provide safe tasks for kids such as mixing, adding veggies to a bowl, peeling veggies, stirring a sauce. Bonus: when kids are more invested in preparation they may be more invested in eating/trying something new!
Alright are you hungry yet!? Time to get cooking!
Here is a list of my favorite resources for healthy recipes:
Best Body Meal Plan and Cookbook by Sohailla Digsby RDN and Kim Beavers RDN
Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor
The 30 minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Serena Ball, RDN
By Erica Baty, RDN