It's the eternal struggle for anyone tasked with feeding themselves.
"How do I make healthy cooking easier?" This is one of the questions tackled earlier this month on the College Info Geek podcast, in response to a question submitted by a listener. The listener explained that s/he struggles with cooking and often ends up ordering takeout, which is "counterproductive and hurts my wallet."
This is an important question, and one that plagues every adult who's ever had to take care of feeding themselves, whether college-aged or not. Even as a mother to three little kids, I continue to ask myself this same question on a daily basis.For a couple of college guys who presumably haven't been cooking for themselves nearly as long as I have (!), they've got some great suggestions.
#1: Make it easy.
The simpler the meals and the easier it is to access the ingredients, the more inclined you'll be to eat the food. One guy suggested roasting pre-cut vegetables in a glass baking pan lined with parchment paper and serving over boiled white rice. Another said he prefers not to cook for his lunch, but eats an assortment of items – avocado, almonds, kale chips, hummus on rye, hardboiled eggs. His exact quote: "As soon as there's effort, I don't want to." I think we can all relate.
#2: Plan your meals.
Make a simple meal plan to guide your grocery shopping and tape it to your fridge (or get a small whiteboard). This can help keep your eating on track. Sometimes you forget that you have the ingredients for a specific dish, but the plan will remind you.
#3: Keep key ingredients on hand.
Learn what your staples are. For the podcast hosts, these include eggs, almonds, carrots, smoothie ingredients, protein powder, etc. (Of course this will look different for everyone.) When the bags of frozen fruit and vegetables get low, one guy says he replaces it immediately so that he never runs out, as a missing ingredient can be a deterrent to cooking.
#4: Cook in bulk.
Not everyone has the time or space to do this, but preparing a big old casserole or a pot of soup on a Sunday or a quiet evening can mean meals for days. You do need freezer space and extra containers to accommodate this, however.
#5: Track your food.
The hosts cite The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which found that people who track the food they eat in a journal tend to eat more healthily. Perhaps the act of writing it down (making it permanent) prompts people to clean up their diets.
I'd add that it makes meal-planning easier, too, because when you're running out of inspiration, you can look back at what else you've eaten in recent weeks and base your plan off that.