Why Is It So Hard To Eat Healthy?

This article originally published in West Orlando News Online.

In today’s society everyone wants the most convenient way for their family to live and there is nothing wrong with that…unless it causes you to become over weight, have health problems or financial issues. I know that most families live very busy lives, between work and taking care of all their other responsibilities, can leave very little time for planning and preparing a home cooked meal 7 days a week.  But that used to be the norm when I was growing up with two working parents.  We ate out maybe 3-4 times per month, not 3-4 times (or more) per week.

 Of course I’m not saying that families don’t deserve to treat themselves by eating out, but when it seems easier to pick up your dinner at a fast food place than to sit down and eat a well balanced meal almost every day of the week, I think this is a major issue.  Plus it takes away from having some quality time with your family.

 If you are going to eat out, take into consideration that many of the fast food chains have changed their menus to offer a selection of healthier choices such as salads, fruit and grilled meat instead of fried.   Kathleen Zelman (www.WebMD.com) registered dietitian, has a great outline to help make healthier choices at the 5 most popular fast food restaurants.   Dr. Zelman shows that by making a few changes like using honey mustard instead of mayo on a grilled chicken sandwich or using ½ the salad dressing packet or even ordering a junior burger instead of the one-quarter pounder can make a big difference in your calorie intake.  Note: Another great resource for healthy fast food items visit www.healthchecksystems.com/ffood.htm, there is a more in depth listing of items for families on the go.

On the other hand, a few minutes a week of planning can help you make home-made meals that can offer healthier choices, save money and taste great.   Make it a family event if possible and get some meal suggestions from your children or significant other.   I also do some online planning to figure out our dinner menu for the week based on special prices.   Most of the major supermarkets have a website that let you put in your zip code and find your local store’s weekly advertisements.  I look for the buy one get one free deals which can also be matched with food manufacturer’s coupons to save even more.  I also frequently shop at more than one store because even with the price of gas my savings outweigh the extra couple of dollars to go a few miles farther.

 I sometimes make meatless spaghetti, a salad and garlic toast, which can feed our family of four dinner two nights for about $7.00.  It only takes about 20 minutes to prepare.  Note: If you have to have the meat, consider one of those one-pound rolls of ground beef or turkey for around $3.00 and use one-half in the spaghetti and freeze the rest into patties for a couple of burgers for lunch over the weekend.  I completely fooled our two teenagers with the ground turkey in the spaghetti. They just mentioned that the meat tasted a little different, but ate every bit.  There are also recipe books that offer a ton of 30-minute meals even for the less experienced cooks.

 Another suggestion is to get a nice barbecue grill if you don’t already have one and grill some fish, chicken, or other meats and some veggies.  You can put aside portions for several meals in containers and use as the main course for a few dinners during the week.  That way when you come home from work and don’t really feel like cooking a meal,  you can re-heat the meat and throw a couple of potatoes in the microwave, make a salad or fix a side dish of veggies and you have a much healthier dinner in 15-20 minutes.

 If you don’t like to grill outside because of the hassle of charcoal or gas, clean-up, or no yard, etc., you could broil meat which is fast and the fat drips off.   Or get a small rotisserie oven or indoor grill for around $50-$100.  A great little investment to your kitchen accessories with easy clean up (most parts are dishwasher safe) and all you have to worry about are the side dishes.

 Ever seen the infomercial that says…”set it and forget it?”  That rotisserie oven really works.  It not only cut my meal cooking time in half, I really didn’t have to stand over a hot stove and watch it.  You can cook chicken wings, legs/thighs and steaks, pork chops; you name it that taste like it has been on a grill in about 30 minutes or so.   Note: I usually marinate the meat 30 minutes before cooking so the flavor cooks all the way through and meat cooks without drying out just like when you prepare meat to barbecue.  My favorite is that you can make a 3-5 pound chicken or small turkey breast for Sunday dinner and have leftovers to make sandwiches for lunch.

 Just think about it. How many times have you had anything left over from a “combo meal” that you could re-heat and enjoy for another meal?  Most families can eat much healthier by making a few adjustments to their schedule and shopping habits.

 Here are a few suggestions to help get your family eating healthier right away.

 1.Take 15-20 minutes a week to plan your dinner menu and healthy in-between meal snacks.

 2.Buy family meat packages which offer big discounts on the price per pound (separate into what you need per meal, store in freezer, set in the refrigerator in the morning before you head off to work and it should be thawed by the time you get home).

3.Find a produce store or meat market near your neighborhood.  Sometimes the prices of meats and vegetables can be far less expensive than supermarket prices.

 4.Check out buy one get one free, or buy one get one half off.  (Cook one now cook one later).

 5.Consider alternative cooking methods (rotisserie or grill or broil).

 6.Check with family and friends and see if they clip coupons from circulars or print online.  You can swap coupons you don’t use with each other for ones that fit your family’s taste buds.

 Bon Appétit!  Hope this helps to get your family on the road to a healthier life!

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