Cooking and Eating and Health

I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat at home all this week. Making breakfast before leaving for work, packing lunch, making dinner. That sort of thing. I’ve also been making a concerted effort to not purchase mid-meal snacks. And I’ve (re)learned something that should have been obvious all along.

It’s a whole lot easier to hit your calorie goal, when you don’t eat out.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a claim that restaurants are utterly unhealthy. But they are terrible at portion control. The typical restaurant meal is a size that – realistically – I could share with my wife. In fact, sometimes we do just that. When we eat at home, though, portion control is much easier. Why? Two reasons:

1. I control how much I cook.
2. I control how much I put on the plate.

Seems obvious, right? But, like so many things in life, ‘obvious’ does not always translate into ‘common’ or ‘easy’.

I control how much I cook. This is not always true, particularly with a brand new recipe. Sometimes, particularly with new recipes, I end up making a meal for six to eight people. Which would be great if I was having friends over, or if I had a large family. But there’s me, and my wife, and my five year old (who does not eat as much as an adult). We certainly don’t need meals that big (see the next item), and so we often end up with leftovers. Which can be a boon when packing lunch, as long as every meal doesn’t generate two meals worth of leftovers.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to adjust a recipe once you know what you’re doing. Does the recipe make eight servings? Cut it in half. You may need to experiment further, but generally speaking you shouldn’t have to work really hard to figure this out. Once you’ve tried out a recipe you can start playing with it as well. Add more vegetables and reduce the amount of meat. Use whole-wheat or vegetable pasta instead of white pasta (although I haven’t found a whole-wheat pasta yet that doesn’t taste gritty, so I tend to not do this one). Use a different meat (ground turkey or ground chicken instead of hamburger). Add more spices and use less salt. Play around, and see what works.

I control how much I put on the plate. This is the significantly easier of the two, as you can always do this. And you know what helps with it? Use smaller plates. That way, smaller portions don’t look as small.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I was skeptical as well, when I tried it. But now that I’m used to the smaller plates, it actually bothers me to use the big plates we own. It always looks like I’m putting too much on the plate, but then I’m also tempted to [i]fill up[/i] the empty space. So give it a try. It works.

More importantly, though, is the basic idea of controlling how much you put on the plate. When you’ve made the meal yourself, you can calculate the calorie count easily. Then you can measure or weigh out the servings, and be confident that you’re eating a reasonable amount of food.

So give it a try, if you aren’t already. Make your own meals, and serve them yourself, and eat them at your own dinner table. And, most importantly, enjoy them! Because it doesn’t matter how healthy the food is, if you can’t make yourself choke it down.

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