By Charlyn Fargo
Want an easy way to shed some calories? Simply cook at home. Seriously. And you’ll be saving money as well.
A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that Americans are slimming their calories, thanks to home cooking. The study, reported in the April 2014 issue of Environmental Nutrition, found that working-age adults consumed an average 118 fewer calories per day between 2009 and 2010, compared with four years earlier. Some 20 percent of the improvement in overall calorie cutback was attributed to eating more home-cooked meals and fewer restaurant and fast-food meals.
Two other factors in the calorie cuts were attributed to the declining economy (people were eating at home more to save money) and increased reading of nutrition labels on food packages in supermarkets.
It’s no surprise that the size of restaurant meals has increased — providing too many calories, fat and sodium at a meal for most of us. By cooking at home, you can control the portion sizes and the amount of fat and sodium in a dish.
It’s great news that our nation’s eating habits are improving, but we still have a long way to go — 36 percent of U.S adults were obese during the 2009-2010 time period. That obesity can lead to health concerns such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Eating meals at home that contain whole foods such as fish, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables may be a simple key to dropping a few pounds.
If you think that’s easier said than done, dust off your slow cooker. I try to fill mine each morning before I head to work, so I have a hot meal nearly prepared when I walk in the door in the evening. Earlier this week, I filled my slow cooker with a pork roast. The next day I turned the leftovers into pulled pork sandwiches — simmered in barbecue sauce. This morning, I browned chicken breasts, and then added them to the slow cooker with a pasta sauce, mushrooms, onions and Italian seasoning. Tonight I’ll add some mozzarella, Parmesan and whole-wheat noodles to complete my Parmesan chicken.
My secret? The more organized I am in the morning, the healthier we eat.
Q And A
Q: I’ve been seeing something called “quinoa” recommended as a healthy side dish. What is it and what would I do with it?
A: Quinoa — pronounced “KEEN-wah” — is considered and used like a whole grain, although technically it’s a seed, not a true whole grain such as brown rice, bulgur (whole wheat) and oatmeal. Unlike most grains, it’s a good source of protein, so it’s a perfect choice as you experiment with smaller meat portions and meatless meals. In just 15 minutes it can be cooked like rice to serve as a fluffy side dish or incorporated in soups and stews instead of pasta or potatoes. Each grain is naturally coated with a bitter substance to protect it as it grows, so put it in a sieve and rinse it before cooking. In most larger grocery stores, you can find quinoa in the same section with rice. Alternatively, you might check the “natural” foods aisle, where it may be grouped with other packaged grains or in a bulk food section.
— Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research
Here’s a recipe for a quinoa salad from the March issue of Cooking Light magazine to get you started.
NUTTY ALMOND-SESAME RED QUINOA
• 1 2/3 cups water
• 1 cup red quinoa (regular can be substituted)
• 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
• 2 T fresh lemon juice
• 2 T olive oil
• 2 t dark sesame oil
• 1/4 t kosher salt
• 3 green onions, thinly sliced
Bring 1 2/3 cups water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 12 minutes or until quinoa is tender; drain. Stir in almonds, juice, oils, salt and onions. Serves four (serving size: 1/2 cup).
Per serving: 238 calories, 7.5 g protein, 31.6 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 132 mg sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Ill. For comments or questions, contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD.
Nutrition News: Make it a home-cooked meal
By Charlyn Fargo