A well-balanced and healthy diet plays an important role in good health. Several good home-cooked dishes can be prepared based on one’s preference, taste and cuisine. Additionally, quality time spent over lunch or dinner is an excellent way to bond with your partner and kids. With the growing incidence of childhood and adulthood obesity, home-cooked meals have become more important than ever.
Here are a few examples.
Lemon chicken: Pour some oil in a pan. Add shredded chicken breasts. Toss in some veggies such as broccoli, cherry tomatoes, garlic and onions and let these cook for five minutes before you stir the chicken and let the other side cook. Add some pepper, salt, lemon and voila—you have a tangy, low-calorie stir-fry that yields generous portions. Serve it with whole-grain bread or brown rice.
One-pot sticky salmon: Season salmon with salt and pepper. Put some oil in a pan on medium heat. Add salmon and cook for three minutes on each side or until browned. Now, combine cornstarch, garlic, fennel seeds, some vegetable stock and maple syrup in another bowl and add this mixture to the pan. Sprinkle with asparagus. Cook for four more minutes until the sauce thickens. Now, cook the rice mix—one cup in two cups of water (for three to four people)—and serve.
Grilled prawns in veggies: You can marinate thawed prawns in salt, pepper chilly and lemon juice for one hour. Grill or roast them over a pan for three to four minutes on medium heat. To this, add some shredded cabbage, cherry tomatoes, finely diced onions and zucchini. This goes well with a side of whole-wheat noodles or bread.
Soups: Warm soups with seasonal veggies and an added dash of chicken pieces/tofu/prawns never fail to increase hunger pangs. Add some pepper on top and garnish with some coriander/parsley for that extra zest.
Pastas: Whole-wheat pastas cooked in pesto or tomato cheese sauce or simply tossed in with some fresh veggies are loved by all.
Turkey stew: This dish goes nicely with cucumber salad and a dinner roll. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Mix whole-wheat flour with salt, pepper and cumin. Roll turkey cubes in the mixture. Shake off excess flour. Add beef or turkey cubes in a pan and sauté until nicely brown for about 8 to 10 minutes. Place beef or turkey in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add minced garlic, onions, celery and peppers to a skillet and cook for about five minutes until vegetables are tender. Add some veggie broth. Bring this to a boil and pour over turkey or beef in the casserole dish. Cover the dish tightly and bake for an hour at 375°F. Remove from the oven and stir in potatoes, carrots and peas. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
These are a few examples. A whole-wheat sandwich with some tomato sauce is always filling and so is a grilled cheese sandwich with a side salad.
What should be kept in mind while making meals?
The following points should be kept in mind while making meals.
- Fruits and vegetables: You should eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables because they contain vitamins and minerals that are essential to maintain health and prevent disease.
- Starch carbohydrates: Potatoes, whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are examples of complex carbs. These are required to fuel the body and keep you satiated and they are a good source of energy. They contain essential fiber, calcium, iron and other vitamins.
- Dairy: Dairy and dairy alternatives are good sources of protein and vitamins. They also contain calcium that is beneficial for bone health. Reduced-fat, low-fat, and fat-free milk contain less fat than full-fat milk while still providing sufficient protein, vitamins and calcium. Dairy-free milk alternatives such as soy milk and other nut milk can be consumed by people with dietary restrictions.
- Lean meat: Fish, chicken and duck are examples of lean meat.
- Pulses: Pulses are foods such as beans, peas and lentils. They’re a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and are low in fat. They are good for bulking up dishes such as soups and gravies. They add flavor and texture and can replace meat.
- Other vegetable protein: Other vegetable-based sources of protein include tofu, bean curd and Quorn. They are full of protein, low in fat and can be used in place of meat in most recipes.
- Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Egg dishes are quick to make and healthy, provided too much oil or salt is not used while cooking.
- Meat: Meat is rich in protein, vitamins (especially vitamin B12) and minerals. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal meat and milk. Red (beef, lamb and pork) and processed meat increase the risk of colon cancer. Some types of meat contain high unsaturated fats that increase cholesterol levels in the body and affect the heart and brain. Choosing lean cut meats and reducing meat consumption while replacing it with other sources of protein are recommended.
- Fat: Some amount of fat is essential in the diet. Unsaturated fats such as plant-based fats and olive oil are recommended because they can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
What should your home-cooked meals look like?
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a guide called MyPlate for adults and children to have a healthy, balanced diet. The MyPlate model shows five food groups (fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains/starch and dairy) in a proportion setting, making it easier to understand the types of food and quantity to include in each meal.
What meals should look like according to MyPlate: MyPlate visually represents what an ideal meal should look like without too many dietary restrictions. The plate is divided into four unequal sections to represent five main food groups. Vegetables make up the largest portion on the plate, which is 40 percent, followed by grains, which is 30 percent. Fruits make up 10 percent of the plate and protein makes up 20 percent. Fruits and vegetables fill half the plate, whereas protein and grains fill the other half. A small amount of dairy in a glass (milk) or cup (yogurt) is incorporated into the diet.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating Resources
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USDA: "MyPlate." https://www.fns.usda.gov/program/choose-myplate
USDA: "What's on Your Plate?" https://www.choosemyplate.gov
USDA: "MyPyramid." https://www.fns.usda.gov/mypyramid
CDC: "Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families." https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/managing/Tasty_Recipes_for_People_with_Diabetes-508.pdf
Simply Recipes: "Lemon Chicken." https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/lemon_chicken/