The Lark DPP mission on “Shop and Cook” has focused on doing your own cooking to lose weight. As you may know, cooking at home can lead to lower-calorie, more nutritious meals – just what the doctor ordered for lowering diabetes risk. The Lark check-in introduced some possible reasons why you may have trouble cooking at home, and there are plenty more. There are also plenty of responses to those barriers that turn them into nothing more than excuses. Here are five reasons why “I can’t cook!” and five ways you can overcome these challenges.
1. I don’t have time to cook.
That certainly can be a problem, unless you use smart strategies. When you can, purchase pre-prepped ingredients, such as bagged salad or sliced olives. You can also “pre-prep” ingredients yourself on weekends or when you have time: try cooking chicken breast or fish and freezing them in single-serving portions to use later, and experiment with casseroles, soups, and stews you can freeze.
2. I don’t know how to cook.
Start slow. Can you open a loaf of bread, get out two slices, and put a piece of cheese between the slices? Great – you can make a cheese sandwich! Now, take a knife, slice a tomato, and put a few slices on the piece of cheese. Are you ready to get real fancy? Squeeze some mustard on the bread. The point is that it is not hard to get started in the kitchen. No need be afraid.
When you are ready to get cooking, consider basic staples such as eggs, whole-grain pasta, and vegetables. Ask a friend to give you tips on using the stove, so you can make eggs, boil pasta, and steam vegetables, and the oven or toaster oven, so you can roast or bake chicken, fish, and vegetables.
3. I crave fast food.
The solution is to make great food fast. Do you want a pizza? Top a whole-grain crust with pizza sauce or fresh tomatoes and basil and olive oil, add a bit of mozzarella cheese, and pile on the vegetables and lean protein. Is a burger on your mind? Use a whole-grain bun, cook a turkey burger or a veggie burger patty, stuff your burger with grilled onions and mushrooms, and serve it with baked carrot sticks instead of fries. Whatever you are craving, you can make it a home, fairly quickly, and with better nutrition.
4. My kids want to eat out.
What do your kids want that you can’t offer at home? You can make it fun and give them fast food-style, kid-friendly fare that is healthy for everyone. You may even inspire them to discover their inner chef!
Start with dishes they might get at a fast food restaurant or from the kids’ menu at a casual restaurant. Another option is to serve the dinner buffet-style so your children get involved and have a sense of ownership. These are some ideas for “bars.”
- Pizza bar: Offer whole-grain crust options such as whole-wheat English muffins or pita bread, and/or portabello mushrooms. Let each person top their pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and all kinds of vegetables, and then bake the pizzas.
- Pasta bar: Offer whole-grain pasta and a low-carb alternative such as cooked spaghetti squash or “zoodles” or zucchini noodles. Set out sauce, vegetables, and cooked chicken, and let everyone serve themselves.
- Tex-Mex bar: Offer whole-grain taco shells or high-fiber tortillas (opt for soft taco size since they are smaller) and toppings such as fat-free refried beans, shredded chicken or lean ground turkey with taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, salsa, and avocado.
- Stir-fry bar: As simple as it sounds…let everyone choose their own ingredients, then stir-fry them so everyone gets a unique, Chinese-style meal.
5. I don’t have time to shop.
Grocery shopping does not need to be as time-consuming as you may fear. Go during off-hours to avoid lines and traffic. You can also try to save time by using self checkouts or choosing lines with a bagger along with a cashier. If you only need a few items, such as fresh fish or vegetables for the next day or two, try multitasking: you can walk to the store to get in your exercise while you get your groceries.
Increasingly, supermarkets are offering services such as curbside pickup so you can order online and pick up your groceries without leaving your car. If you really have no time, try a grocery delivery service either direct from the store or through a third-party service.