Frozen meals or pre-prepared/prepackaged meals are generally full of nutrients and ingredients that we don’t need or in which we get too much of in our diet. For example, processed foods are generally made with inexpensive oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower seed or safflower oil. These oils are high in omega 6 which causes an imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6. This imbalance is a risk factor for heart disease. Furthermore, store bought foods can be full of additives and preservatives including sugar and salt as well as dyes, chemicals, stabilizers and emulsifiers, etc.
Preparing meals allows you to control and choose each ingredient as well as portion size. You can decide on the levels and types of fats used, sugar content and sources and flavours used as well as the type and amount of vegetables used. You can choose local and/or organic ingredients (or not) and you can decide whether or not the animal products you use are grass fed or organically fed, lean or medium, etc.
2. Save money.
Believe it or not, it is far less expensive to buy whole foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables and protein sources. When food costing for recipes, it is not uncommon for each serving of a recipe to cost as low as 30 cents- $2.00, depending on the recipe and ingredients. Not only can you prepare many servings of healthy recipes from one grocery order, but you will generally be left with extra food for snacks such as veggies and dip or extra grain to use in future recipes.
3. Cooking Can be Enjoyable and Relaxing.
Although it is not uncommon to view cooking as a chore, meal prep is a great way to relax and wind down on a day off or after a long work/school day. While chopping vegetables for the recipe(s) chosen, you can listen to music or have a glass of wine or tea. Cooking with your friend, partner or children is a great way to communicate and spend time together as well. Children are far more likely to want to eat a meal that they helped prepare and teaching your children how to cook will set them on the right path for a healthy lifestyle.
The key to making food preparation enjoyable is to experiment and to allow for errors. Don’t worry if a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would as every cooking experience is a new adventure. Let your creative juices flow. Recipes are just a guide. Have fun in the kitchen!
4. Cooking allows for variety so you will never get bored of your diet.
No two dishes need to taste the same. You can always prepare a recipe but switch out the flavours or vegetables used. You can also replace like for like in order to switch up the recipe a bit. For example, replace brown rice for brown rice noodles or chicken for lentils, etc.
5. You can create as many servings as you'd like for leftovers.
Cooking your own food does not mean that you need to spend two hours in the kitchen everyday. You can double or triple a recipe based on the number of people eating and the amount of leftovers required for later in the week.
The best way to develop meal planning skills is to talk to a professional about your dietary needs and preferences so skill development is specific to your needs. If you have any questions, contact me at email@example.com.
Eat Well, Halifax!
Nicole Marchand, RD