Eat Healthier at Home – Here’s How You Do It!
If you’re looking for ways to eat healthier, you’re not alone. According to a recent American Heart Association survey, two in five consumers say they always look for healthy options. But only one in ten find it easy to do so. When you throw the time constraints that come with jam-packed work and school schedules into the mix, it’s easy to see why many of us struggle to get nutrient-dense meals on the table, despite our best intentions.
We talked to Jennifer Ward, the Longmont, Colo. based Owner and Executive Chef for Harvest to Home Personal Chef Services to find out what we can do to stop wishing we could prepare healthier meals at home and actually do it — even when time is at a premium. Ward, who also goes by Chef Jenn, opened her doors in February 2019; since then she’s developed a reputation for some of the area’s best personal chef services for private dining, elopement, and micro-wedding catering.
Here are her best tips:
1. Plan ahead
If you’re serious about prioritizing healthy, home-cooked meals, flying by the seat of your pants just doesn’t work—and it only gets more chaotic when you add additional family members to the table. Ward suggests planning ahead and taking a team approach to ensure success. “Pick one day a week where you sit down as a family and figure out what you want to eat that week,” she suggests. Involving the whole family might sound overwhelming, but it’s a genius way to multi-task. “Make your grocery list and prep it together. It’ll make the task go quicker, it’s teaching the kids how to cook, and it’s bringing the family together for one common goal.”
2. Keep it simple
According to Ward, many enthusiastic home chefs make the mistake of trying something new and complicated every night. While it might sound exciting at first, all that variety is a recipe for burnout.
She recommends sticking with recipes that call for five ingredients or fewer. “It will save time when prepping ahead and if you must cook in a hurry. Life happens!”
Also, don’t feel you need to come up with a meal for each night of the week. “When I meal prep, I pick four meals to make for dinner for the week,” Ward explains. Each dinner provides three to four servings for herself and her husband with leftovers doing double duty as lunches or a future dinner.
Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that healthy home cooking doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. As Ward shares, “We pick one day to eat out so it’s a break from the cooking at home and a chance to try something new that you might not make at home.”
3. Prioritize efficiency
One of the best ways to move quickly while cooking is to start with clean, tidy surfaces and all your ingredients measured out and handy. “We call it ‘mise en place’ in the kitchen but translated [from French] it means ‘everything in its place,” says Ward.
Batch prepping is another way Ward saves time in the kitchen. “If I have a couple recipes that call for similarly prepared items, I do it all at the same time and then split it out to the dinners that require it.” For example, Ward might prep fajitas and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches simultaneously. “I use the same meat (shaved ribeye) seasoned differently for the cheesesteaks and the fajitas. Peppers and onions sautéed the same with some salt and pepper then add a bit of cayenne for the fajita portions.”
Not only does this hack save prep time it also cuts down on dishes.
4. Keep “emergency” meals on hand
For those crazy evenings when cooking even a simple meal is out of reach, “You can’t beat having a lasagna or meatloaf around,” says Ward. “You can make them ahead of time, freeze them for later and just pull them out the day before you want to eat them to thaw before cooking or cook from frozen (though that takes a lot longer).”
And if that’s not feasible? It’s okay to redefine dinner. “Breakfast makes the best dinner some days, so we keep eggs, bacon, and grits on hand.”
Pam Moore is an award-winning freelance health and fitness writer, occupational therapist, and certified personal trainer. She’s also the host of the Real Fit podcast. To get her free guide to crushing Impostor Syndrome visit pam-moore.com.