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Get in the Kitchen

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It seems that one of the biggest obstacles folks have to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the kitchen. 

Cooking healthy and fresh food isn’t as daunting as it seems. You just have to approach it like you approach exercising. Plan your time.Be proactive. 

Here’s the deal: the Spark rule is to start with 10 minutes of fitness a day, right? This way you aren’t overwhelmed, but you still receive the benefit.  Shouldn’t this same rule be applied to the kitchen? I know it can be overwhelming to attempt to plan your week ahead of time in this fast and furious time that we live in.

Here are a few pieces of advice to help you GET IN THE KITCHEN:

The first thing I want you to think about is this: Be intentional. We don’t exercise mindlessly; we shouldn’t eat that way either. Should we really fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to our nutrition, or should we be intentional about it? Shouldn't we know WHAT/HOW much we are eating? If we are ‘off the cuff’, we aren’t being intentional at all. 

Secondly, I hope you aren’t still buying your meals through a drive thru window, but if you are, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the meals could be brought home and eaten at your kitchen table and not in the car or in front of the TV? How intentional is that? 

In order to start moving in the right direction, start by planning your meals.  Write out a menu for the week.  Take the time and plan the menu according to your schedule for the next week.  Take everything into account.  Know your family's schedule and commitments for the week.  Everything on your family calendar is a part of this planning process. Then, when you go to the grocery store, shop with a purpose for the week. This will help prevent the unnecessary purchases we always make.  I think that you may be surprised that this task alone will help you make better choices for the week ahead.

But wait, you aren’t a cook? You need some help? Did you realize that SparkRecipes is full of great ideas?  Did you know that many of these are simple to prepare?  PERFECT for the beginner!  Of course there is also the SparkPeople cookbook that is FULL of great stuff.  I received a copy for Christmas and we have tried several items that were delicious.  Don’t be scared; be courageous about this new adventure in the kitchen.

Now that you have made your menu and purchased exactly what you need for the week, it’s time to get in the kitchen.  You have all the tools you need; it’s time to do it.
At first, this step can be time-consuming, but it does get easier with practice.

Once you have a routine established, I would invite you to get the family involved.
If you’ve followed any of my blogs, you may know that my family is involved with everything. That’s our lifestyle and we enjoy it. Some of our best laughs are when the four of us are all in the kitchen preparing a meal together.  
The really cool thing about cooking fresh food for yourself is that, just like exercising, this is a part of taking your life back. It puts you in control of exactly what you are choosing to fuel your body with.  When you order food that someone else prepares, whether it is in a fast food or sit down restaurant, or even a prepackaged meal from the freezer section of your grocery store, you are giving someone else the control over what you are putting in your body.

You say you can’t plan an entire week ahead? Ok, start by planning for next day.  Be intentional about that day.  Follow your meal plan, bringing your meals with you from YOUR kitchen.  Be intentional about making this ONE DAY a success.  Small successes like this will add up and eventually this will become your lifestyle.

Get in the kitchen, first with your pen and paper to plan your week. Plan your menu. Be INTENTIONAL about the entire process. Then get cooking.

It’s time to get in the kitchen and put yourself in control of what you fuel your body with.

Do you cook as a family? Do you plan your meals ahead of time? What are some of your favorite meals to prepare?

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Tonight, I will plan my meals for tomorrow. Thank you. Report
For all those singles out there - yes, it takes a bit of fiddling to change a recipe from serving 6 to serving 1, but it's worth the effort. Quite often I'll make a recipe for 4 and freeze 3 portions. I put each portion in it's own container and mark it with the recipe name and date. Then on those busy nights that we all have, I pull one out of the freezer, reheat it in the microwave, add a salad or a couple of vegetables and I have my own "TV dinner" (yes, I'm that old). It's fast, it's easy, and clean up is a breeze. At the moment I have 2 breakfasts and 5 entrees (2 chicken, 2 beef, 1 fish) just waiting for the right moment.
I've learned to love cooking, and the best part is being able to adjust recipes to take out the stuff I don't like. For example, I like cookies that aren't super sweet, so mine have about half the sugar. I hate cilantro (seems like either people love it or hate it), so I can remove cilantro from recipes and they are greatly improved. I've experimented with sweet breads that area loaded with fruits and vegetables (and a lot less sugar) - and my husband asks for them all the time. It's a great feeling to know we're eating something really healthy that tastes great. Report
Oh, I am so glad CATHY27518 responded! I have such a hang-up, too! I plan a number of things by necessity (appointments) but not meals. I hate cooking but only rarely eat out or have take-out because of the expense and I don't like a lot of restaurant food. I need the simplest, easiest meal possible. I am also in a lot of pain and am working around that as I can only stand for a short period of time, for example, to cut up veggies. I keep reading the Spark recipes but am not finding many I can eat or with ingredients I can afford. My greatest progress on SP has been adding more ftuits and veggies to my diet. I live alone, so if I make a recipe, I have to adapt it or find one I can eat multiple days. Still trying.... Report
Great blog. Report
I plan weekly menus and I cook each day. It is both the healthy and cheaper option, once I paid for the startup cost for the appropriate cookware, bakeware and pantry items.

However, cooking within half-an-hour is only a recent convenience due to modern appliances and processed food options. True daily cooking is a huge cost of time. I spend an average of six hours per day cooking, cleaning, menu planning, couponing, and acquiring groceries twice or more per week.

In premise it is good to get in the kitchen and cook. In practice, it is not a viable option unless you have the time available to invest. Report
I love to cook, but i am a busy busy mom! I am just starting this diet thing i have cut back on soda and all now im just trying to eat healthier so i will be spending more time in the kitchen :) Report
I have tried some spark people recipes and found a few that everyone loves. (tex mex calzones anyone). They are not difficult, but I was struggling with the planning like everyone else. My saving grace has been the website eMeals. For a couple bucks a week you get to download a weekly menu, easy recipes and itemized grocery list! You get to pick your store (krogers, walmart, etc.) and your program, (Portion controlled for points, regular, for 2, I do family low fat option). My family has really enjoyed the meals and the recipes are quick to make (30 mins) have good directions and the list saves me time and $ in the grocery store! Out of the 7 dinners during the week I normally pick 5 from emeals and then make 2 family favs or eat out.
Check out the eMeals website for some free sample menus and recipes...good luck to all us busy moms out there! Report
With so many variations in schedules in my house, and the fact that most of us do not agree on what to eat (I'm a borderline vegetarian. My son likes meat and nothing made from soy. My husband would prefer a meat (and fat) based diet but will eat some of what I consume.) It is just simple for my young adults to fend for themselves if they cannot be home when I ate (and If they prefer to eat other things) Planning for the family is good in practice but... Report
I love to cook....but dont have a proper kitchen, the fridge and stove are side by side so there is no prep space and the sink and dishwasher are in an akward layout for me cause im right handed and they are laid out for a left handed person..... pantry and cabinet space is good but not laid out very well Report
I have some kind of psychological resistance to planning ANYTHING ahead of time. Don't know where it came from, but it's ruled me my whole life. I agree with the advice given here, and I will start trying to plan just one day ahead (or, frankly, even THIS day each morning). I really want to do this b/c I know it will save a lot of money and be more healthy. Report
Great blog! Healthy home cooking is really the foundation of a healthy life style. You can't get fit without proper fuels. Forget about the processed food, only you put in time and prepare your own awesome food, you know how important it is to cook for yourself and your family. Be INTENTIONAL indeed! Report
I haven't gotten to planning full weeks, but I have noticed a great change in my stress level just by trying to plan 2-3 day ahead. It's so nice to not have to think about what is for dinner--you just know. Kinda like not thinking about what I will do for exercise today--I already know!

I also have to second your recommendation of the Spark People cookbook. Not only are the recipes quick and delicious, but there is a ton of valuable information about cooking, eating, pantry planning, etc. Well worth the price (although I got mine as a gift too).

Thanks Jerome! Report
This article is true - getting in the kitchen is key. Unfortunately, it sometimes means establishing new routines to get the kitchen CLEAN first - clearing off the counters and decluttering the pantry and making it a welcoming, usable space. Baby steps :) Report
Thanks! I was good at planning my meals but then I got lazy...you are so right, it makes life easier. I added this to my goal! Great blog .... Report
I hate to cook. Report
I believe that planning has been the key to my success. I dont eat what my men in the house eat. I can't. That's what got me to where I was. So I have to plan so that I don't eat those higher calorie foods. DH is a carpenter and DS is a fireman/emt so they both are very physical and need the calories. So planning at least a day but sometimes much longer has helped me to lose 32 pounds this year. I feel great and have so much more energy. My house is cleaner on a daily basis. My pockets of clutter are disappearing. And I am happier and much less overwhelmed. Report
As I am the COO of the kitchen in my house, yes I do plan the meals and I found out that when I do that we are eating healthy, its those times that when there are hockey games to get to or an overtime shift to work or a gym class to get to that I have trouble and sometimes the choice is not always a planned out on but a order this and have it delevered but that is not happening as much as it use too.
Good Blog Thanks Report
Will have to try to get back into the kitchen. We see how it goes. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
I am warming up to being in the kitchen......... Report
I like to eat as close to nature as possible. It's easy to prepare salads with lots of raw veggies. Sometimes I think being a single person makes it easy to prepare meals for just me. But then it also means that when I cook, there are lots of leftovers. And who wants to keep eating the same food for several days? I guess the grass is always greener - cooking for one or for a gang. I supposed there are challenges either way. Report
I know I do much better when I plan my menus out. It makes shopping and cooking easier. My son just moved back in so now I cook for two - easier than for one. I hope to get him on the healthy track also. Report
Another great one agent J....take back the power! Report
We have planned a weekly menu for many years now. It started as both a way to save money and time in shopping trips, and also as a way to make sure everybody got dinner with crazy schedules. But yes, it's also a much easier way to eat healthy, and then I make extras that we pack up for my husband's lunches at work the next day, to also save on money and limit eating out. And not only is it great fun to cook with the family, but the children are both more willing to eat things they've cooked, and they learn how to cook healthy foods and pair that with happy memories. Win win win!! I'm even to the point (since I have time now that my children are grown) that I not only make my own bread, but I make it with flour I've ground myself, so I KNOW exactly what's going into my bread! LOVED this blog, Jerome! Report
I try to help out in the kitchen and occasionally I will cook. I have to confess I didn't read the article as thoroughly as I might have but I have to go exercise, but I get the premise and I agree that a planned out home cooked meal is better for you . Report
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