clean eating at home

Clean Delicious Eating at Home

What you eat can be one of the biggest factors losing excess weight and keeping it off.

Rest assured that cooking at home can be easy, quick, and delicious, as well as healthy, of course. You can make satisfying meals, similar to what you might order in a sit-down restaurant or fast food joint, without feeling deprived. Plus, you can make your home-cooked meals family-friendly without extra effort.


Health Benefits of Home Cooking

You may have a hunch that home cooking can be your best bet for weight loss, but why? In short, you have control over what you put in your food, how you prepare it, and what size portion you serve yourself. In contrast, when you order at a restaurant, you are likely to get a meal that is oversized and has ingredients that are not the healthiest. 

With home cooking, you can control:

  • Your cooking method. You can steam, grill, roast, or even saute food instead of using deep frying or unnecessarily high amounts of added fats in cooking, which often happens at restaurants and fast food joints.

  • Your portions. A single plate of pasta as a dinner entree can have 7 servings of carbs, for example, while you can stick to a more reasonable 1-cup serving of pasta when you cook for and serve yourself.

  • Your ingredients. Restaurants may not give you a choice regarding items such as fatty cuts of meat, chicken with skin, refined grains, or excess fats and salt cooked into food. When you cook your own, you can use lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, whole grains, and less fat and sodium, for example.

Potential Health Benefits of Home Cooking
Weight Loss
You can use lower-calorie ingredients and keep portion sizes smaller more easily when you cook at home so that your meals are lower-calorie. Plus, you can add filling, low-calorie vegetables to fill up without filling out.
Lower Blood Sugar
Choose whole grains instead of refined, and limit added sugars, to minimize blood sugar swings. Insulin resistance can decrease when you choose healthier fats, add less sodium to your food, and use fewer sugars.
Healthier Heart
Add vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and heart-healthy fats, along with swapping in lean proteins, to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Better Nutrition
Get fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the healthy ingredients you choose.
Peace of Mind
Well...if you like knowing what exactly what you are putting in front of yourself and your family...

Home Cooking and Your Budget

There is another likely benefit of cooking for yourself: the lower cost. When you eat out, you are paying not only for the food, but also for the labor to cook the food and clean the pans and dishes. You are also paying for the restaurant to make a profit on you. When you cook at home, you are paying for the food, so home cooking on a budget can be done!

Let’s look at an example of a chicken dinner. A restaurant meal can cost $10 to (more likely) $15 per person. That adds up to $40 to $60 for a family of four. Let’s say instead that you make chicken, brown rice, and green beans with almonds at home. Your costs, estimated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’  standards, may be under $10.

  • $4 for 1 lb. of boneless skinless chicken breast.

  • $2 for 1 lb. of green beans.

  • $2 for 4 oz. of sliced almonds.

  • $0.30 for 4 oz. of dry brown rice.

  • $1 for cooking ingredients such as olive oil, lemon, salt, spices, etc.

You can add a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and dressing for $4, and some fruit for another $2. The grand total is $16, which is a savings of $24 to $44 for that single meal!

Remember the extra expenses when you eat out. A 20% tip for your server or delivery person on a $50 meal is $6. If you get delivery, you might pay about $3 for delivery and may incur a service fee of $2 or more. 


Make Cooking Easier

You are more likely to follow through with your healthy home-cooking intentions if you are prepared. Plan your meals ahead of time when you can so you can go grocery shopping for ingredients. You might even consider a grocery delivery service from a third-party or direct from the supermarket. They are becoming more common and are often reasonably priced.

With cost savings as described above, you can consider the possibility of spending a little extra on meal helpers that can make your meal easier to cook and a little tastier. These may be worth a bit of extra money.

  • Rotisserie chicken instead of chicken that you cook yourself.

  • Bagged salad and prepared vegetables instead of cutting your own lettuce and washing, peeling, and chopping your own vegetables.

  • Individually packaged servings of frozen fish or turkey burger patties

  • Pre-cooked chicken breast strips.


Try Your Hand

You can often make your own meals to be a lot like your fast food favorites. That is, they will taste a lot like your fast food faves, and be satisfying, but there will be important differences. You can easily make them lower in calories and unhealthy components such as sugars, refined carbohydrates, and artery-clogging fats, while increasing the amount of healthy and filling nutrients you get. The following meals and suggestions cut back on unhealthy fats and refined starches and sugars, while adding fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats


Breakfast for a High-Energy Weight Loss Day

Instead of this restaurant meal... ...Try making... save about
Muffin, doughnut, or bagel and cream cheese, latte
Whole-grain English muffin with non-fat cream cheese and ½ banana, coffee with almond milk
200 calories
Omelette with cheese and bacon
Egg whites scrambled with mushrooms and dried tomatoes, topped with 1 oz. low-fat cheese
300 calories
Breakfast burrito with egg, hash browns, sausage, cheese, sour cream
Breakfast burrito with egg white, baked acorn squash, avocado, low-fat cheese, non-fat yogurt, salsa on a high-fiber tortilla
300 calories

Quick Power Lunch

Instead of this restaurant meal... ...Try making... save about
Teriyaki beef bowl with rice
Teriyaki chicken or fish bowl with ½ cup brown rice, 1 cup of steamed vegetables, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
300 calories
Sub sandwich with Italian meats, cheese, and mayo on white roll
Sandwich with grilled chicken or tuna, grated parmesan, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, deli or brown mustard, on whole-grain hot dog bun
400 calories
Caesar salad with chicken, croutons, parmesan, and dressing
Caesar salad with chicken, sliced almonds, shredded parmesan, low-fat dressing
300 calories

Dinner in a Jif

Instead of this restaurant meal... ...Try making... save about
Lasagna with beef and cheese served with breadstick
Lasagna with grilled eggplant instead of pasta, ground turkey, cottage cheese cauliflower, parmesan cheese served with a green side salad
400 calories
Salmon with lemon butter sauce served with fried potato slices and creamed spinach
Salmon brushed with olive oil and roasted with lemon and rosemary, served with roasted sweet potato “fries” and brussels sprouts
300 calories
Fried chicken with coleslaw and buttered corn
Baked “fried” chicken with bran cereal crumbs for breading with coleslaw made with fat-free yogurt instead of mayo and corn on the cob, no butter
300 calories

You can see that it is not so difficult to make delicious meals at home that can save calories and improve your nutrition. Eating well can be the most important step you take in preventing diabetes, so do what you can to eat well. Lark DPP can give you tips and keep you aware of what you are eating so good choices become habits.


Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health