Cooking nutritious at home can be easy and cheap – The Fort Morgan Times
Chef Calvin Lee demonstrates proper knife work for Thursday’s Cooking Matters class
Northeast Colorado has a significant population of people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. These conditions reduce quality of life and life expectancy and increase healthcare costs. Our eating habits contribute to all of these things.
Lately, we have all seen the price hikes for all kinds of goods, but unlike a new TV, you can’t avoid buying food. During the Northeast Colorado Health Department’s latest Community Health Assessment, the most commonly reported reason for not eating healthy foods was cost.
Cooking your own food at home is always cheaper and healthier than eating out. Even if you like burgers and fries, you can still make healthier versions at home for less money.
The following are some ideas for how you can increase the nutritional value and variety of your diet while remaining economical in cost and labor.
Start your shopping trip with a meal plan and list. Make the list at home to determine what you already have so you buy only the ingredients you need. Money-saving options include buying generic brands and watching sales. In addition, you can buy in bulk or use coupons. Even with a coupon, a branded item can still be more expensive than the retail version. Ordering online is another way to stay away from the tempting snacks and stick to the list.
Buy whole foods, or the least processed foods. Processed foods can contain extra sugar that cause rapid energy and blood sugar swings, contributing to poor health and mood. In foods like crackers and cereals, look for whole grains and low in sodium and sugar. When buying cheese, a low-fat block is cheaper than pre-sliced or shredded.
Canned and frozen foods are just as healthy as fresh foods. They last longer, usually cost less, are available out of season, and are ready when you need a meal as quickly and easily as fast food. READ THE LABELS! Look for simple ingredients like veggies, canned fish and chicken, and peanut butter with no added salt, sugar, or oil, fruit packed in water, and frozen foods with no added cream or sauce. These products also save time and energy when it’s too late or you’re too overwhelmed to cook something from scratch. Beans of all types bought dry in bulk are the cheapest way to buy these proteins, but they also require more extensive preparation.
Substitute with similar, less expensive ingredients – less expensive cuts of meat, for example, can be delicious when cooked slowly to make a stew or casserole. Add whole grains or beans to expand meat dishes. Experiment with alternative proteins such as firm tofu that can be marinated in bar-b-que sauce and grilled. Beans such as lentils, split peas, and white beans also provide protein and fiber that are filling and heart-healthy.
Not all carbs are bad! Healthy carbohydrates are filling, digested slowly and provide long-lasting energy. Good carbohydrates are whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley and quinoa, which can be bought in large quantities and a small amount makes many servings. Avoid processed carbohydrates such as white rice and white flour that have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients. You can also reduce the total carbohydrate count by replacing a slice of bread on a sandwich with a large leaf of lettuce. Noodles made from veggies like zucchini, carrot, or squash can be found ready-frozen, and pasta made from alternative flours like chickpeas or lentils help maintain good blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and a slim waistline.
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated either. If you live without a full kitchen or want to save money on energy costs, basic appliances can include a crock pot, stove top, toaster oven and small microwave. Soups, casseroles, and casseroles can be made in the slow cooker, and leftovers can be portioned into containers for lunch when the urge to go through a fast-food drive-thru is strong. Potatoes and frozen vegetables can be prepared in the microwave, which is faster and uses less energy than a conventional oven. With a skillet on a hot plate, leftovers can be turned into a frittata or shepherd’s pie. Meat, fish and vegetables can be broiled or broiled in a toaster oven.
We are constantly told to drink more water instead of sugary juices and sodas. But if your tap water tastes bad or is unsafe, bottled water is expensive and creates a lot of waste. There are multi-gallon refillable cans designed to fit in the refrigerator or on the counter. Flavor your water with fresh or frozen fruit, summer vegetables or flavor drops or sachets. Carry a water bottle to avoid buying bottled water on the go, maybe treat yourself to a cup with a fun design, or personalize a bottle with stickers to drink from it more often.
If you or someone you know is struggling to afford enough healthy food, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides a monthly dollar amount based on the number of people in the household and income level. There are also programs for children through schools and seniors from local aging agencies or community centers. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides breastfeeding support, nutritional counseling, and food packages to eligible families and is administered by the Northeast Colorado Health Department. The MyPlate Program through the USDA has education, personal goal support, and recipes on their website www.myplate.gov.