“When cooking at home, you have full control over what’s going into the food you eat, so if you have any special needs, you can assure they are being met — and even if you don’t have particular requirements, you can make sure you are using the best possible ingredients,” said Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian, culinary nutritionist and author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.”
Cooking at home allows you to use fresh ingredients, produce that is seasonal and foods without artificial ingredients, according to Newgent. “It also allows you to use only the amount of added ingredients — like sodium — that your body really needs.”
To get started, create a cooking plan, which includes gathering recipes, necessary equipment and ingredients, as well as determining the number of times per week you might plan on cooking. “If you don’t cook at all, start with one meal per week,” Newgent said. “This month, it might be one meal per week, and next month, it might be two meals — but be realistic.”
For basic cooking equipment, Newgent recommends the following essentials: a large cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife, a large saucepan with a lid, a silicone spatula and cooking spoon, and a large stick-resistant skillet.
In terms of pantry staples: “Salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil are my three basics I can’t live without,” Newgent said. She also recommends canned beans, whole grains, nuts, dried fruit and vinegars, which add flavor when cooking.
When it comes to selecting recipes, choose ones you will enjoy and have time to make. “Sometimes, recipes can be overwhelming with long ingredient lists … and with cooking techniques that are unfamiliar to you. But a simple recipe can be just as delicious and impressive as a complicated one,” Newgent said. A basic omelet, a grilled-cheese sandwich and a basic spaghetti dish are good dishes to start with.
For someone who cooks on occasion but wants to start doing more, Newgent recommends taking a knife skills class. “Good knife skills are integral to preparing recipes, especially healthier recipes, where there can be a lot more slicing and dicing with more plant-based ingredients,” she said.
How to measure it:
Mark the days you will cook on your calendar — and designate a day ahead of time for shopping. Whatever you decide, it’s important to be flexible.
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“Allow a little wiggle room in a cooking resolution, because there are life factors outside of the home that will affect it, like celebratory gatherings and holiday meals. The number of meals you plan to cook each week may vary, but do check in with your cooking plan every few weeks to see that you are doing more than you did in 2017,” Newgent said.