One of the easiest ways to manage your health and weight is to cook most of your meals at home. Doing so allows you to have full control of the quality of your ingredients you use, reduce the amount of sugar and salt your meals contain, and better understand the portions you’re eating.
Whether you’re a beginner or someone who loves to cook but needs ideas for how to create more nutritious options, we’ve created a 3-part suite with all the tips and tricks you need for cooking healthy meals at home.
Healthy Cooking Tips: Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning
Be prepared to start grocery shopping a little more often.
This doesn’t mean you’re spending more money on groceries. Stopping in to the store more frequently can actually cause you to spend less in the long run since you’ll purchase less quantity and use all of your fresh ingredients before they turn. Although it will be an adjustment at first, soon you’ll enjoy those shorter, cheaper trips to the store even though they will be in more frequent intervals.
Assess what you already have.
Before you get out your reusable bag and head to the grocery, begin by taking a quick assessment of potential meal ingredients you already have at home. There’s probably a stock of some shelf-stable foods already in your cabinet such as brown rice, nuts, or pastas that could be utilized as a starting point to build your meals around.
Plan ahead to make recipes that use a combination of many different ingredients.
These Build-Your-Own meals are a great starting point as you can customize them to fit what fruits and vegetables are in season, or what is on sale at the store that week. Keep in mind that you don’t need to purchase a long list of ingredients for each recipe. It’s better to substitute what you have, and make sure you are going to use everything you purchase to minimize waste.
Now that you’re ready to head to the grocery store…
- Start with produce.
You should be spending the majority of your time in this section, as a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables is the most important part of a healthy diet. Consider getting:
- Cauliflower (to pulse in the food processor and use as “rice”)
- Zucchini (to make “zoodles”)
- Beets (to roast in the oven and put on salads)
- Kale (to use in salads, stir-frys, and smoothies)
- Spinach (to add to eggs, smoothies, salads, pasta dishes)
- Potatoes (for baked potato meals, or soups)
- Broccoli (as an easy side dish steamed, or an addition to just about anything)
Get most of your produce at the Farmer’s Market? Get these foods while you’re there!
- Stock up on staples.
If you didn’t have a lot of meal-starters in your cupboard stock up on healthy staples to have on hand, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta. Save on cost and waste by getting these in the bulk section, if available.
- Stay in the outside aisles.
Most of the center aisles of the grocery store are filled with processed foods. You’re better off sticking to the outside where you can find the produce, meat and fish counter, and dairy sections.
- Read your labels.
If you do need to pick up some ingredients from those middle aisles, read the nutrition labels. Make sure whatever you put in your cart contains low amounts of sugar and sodium, and not a ridiculously long list of ingredients that you don’t understand.
With a little planning ahead, you can make the most of your grocery shopping trip and get the healthiest foods possible to begin building your nutritious meals.
In our next articles we’ll go over how to use all of your leftovers, how to properly store food in order to make it last as long as possible, and how to build simple and delicious meals for your family and friends!