How to Cook for a Healthy 2019

The most popular New Year’s Resolutions are related to health – moving more, losing weight, quitting smoking, etc. Although many people know what eating smart means, actually cooking and eating healthy meals each day is not so easy. How do you cook MyPlate meals when you’re short on time and money? Start with the basics and focus on the skills that eating smart requires.

Learn the Basics of Cooking

Get familiar with Cooking 101, especially knife skills and cooking techniques (baking, roasting, sauteing, boiling, etc). Knowing how to use a knife well will make cooking at home easier and more enjoyable. Having a good quality knife and cutting board will make it even easier. Understanding cooking terms and techniques will make you more comfortable in the kitchen. It will also help when you try new recipes.

This post is a good overview of the basic cooking skills and different recipes to learn as you master these skills. Roasting veggies and whole chickens, making broth, cooking dried beans and mixing up homemade salad dressing are all simple cooking skills that make eating smart easier and more affordable.

Find Your Go-To Recipes

One of the hardest things about eating smart is that you have to do it three times a day, 365 days a year. So give yourself a break and learn to batch cook and meal prep. Use this to stock up on ready-to-eat veggies like sweet potatoes or proteins like dried beans, chicken leg quarters, eggs, or lean ground beef. Reheat and serve for fast meals. Or prep a week’s worth of breakfast to grab and go in the morning. Overnight oats or breakfast casseroles are great options for this.

two reusable containers with roasted vegetables, sliced chicken, and hardboiled egs

Stocking your Better Pantry with quick and easy ingredients makes eating smart faster and easier, too. Frozen veggies are ready to heat and eat. Leafy greens are full of nutrition and can be prepped and cooked in less than 10 minutes. Canned seafood, canned beans, and eggs are quick and easy protein options for meals. Cold rotisserie chicken is another option for fast meals your family will enjoy. Even whole grains can be quick to prepare for healthy meals. Try using whole grain pasta, couscous, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas or whole grain bread. Our menu shortcuts can help you figure out how to mix and match these healthy ingredients into tasty meals.

Healthy Substitutions for Smarter Meals

MyPlate has some great advice for tweaking your current diet to eat smarter.

  • Make half your grains whole grains. Choose whole grain versions of your usual bread, pasta, tortillas, and rice.
  • Go lean with protein. Opt for more plant-based protein foods. Choose leaner cuts of meat, like 90% lean ground beef or pork loin instead of pork shoulder.
  • Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy. Skim (nonfat) and low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese have less fat and calories than whole milk dairy products.
  • Use herbs and spices to add flavor instead of salt.
  • Switch to healthy cooking fats instead of using butter, shortening, or lard.

Mastering the basics of cooking MyPlate meals will make eating smart an achievable resolution for a healthier 2019. How are you working on eating smart and moving more this year? We’d love to hear your resolutions and help you achieve them! So share your goals or what you’re struggling with as you work to eat smart with us in the comments and check out our Facebook Live video where I talk in more detail about how to cook for a healthy 2019.

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