We don’t remember the things we buy, but we remember the food we eat, and whom we eat it with. This is especially true of family meals. Unfortunately, in the United States we have gotten away from cooking meals at home and now tend to eat more for flavor and convenience. The United States actually cooks less than any other nation and studies show that when rates of home cooking go down, obesity rates go up.
Why Family Meals Are Important
There is so much more to cooking at home to lose weight or be healthy. Food is an experience and it’s the story of food that is so powerful—where it comes from, what’s involved in the process, how it makes us feel, and how it connects us with the people we love.
Family meals make more time for conversation and are a great way to set an example for your kids and their future. Cooking more family meals at home can help you to eat more nutrient rich foods and build stronger relationships with the people you love. Cooking at home not only allows you to control your own health, but also the health of your family. Physically and mentally, home cooked family meals can make you healthier and happier.
Cooking at home also creates a comforting and pleasing aroma that can naturally get the family gathered around the table. Did you know that our sense of smell is our most powerful sense of all? The sense of smell is closely linked to memory and emotions, which can trigger feelings and bring us back to special times in our lives. Think of holiday smells like cinnamon, cloves, that Christmas tree smell, or freshly baked cookies. These smells instantly flood us with memories and can bring us to that special holiday time full of fun and family.
“The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation.” (www.fifthsense.org)
Are you interested in cooking more meals at home but don’t know where to start? Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you cook or if you have little to no cooking experience. Your first step is to upgrade the quality of everything you are buying by looking at the ingredient lists of any packaged, canned, jarred, or boxed food you purchase. Your goal is to be able to pronounce each ingredient and know what it is. Ask yourself, is this ingredient real food and do I know where it comes from? Also, the shorter the ingredient list, typically the healthier it will be.
More Ingredients= More Processing
Ideally, cooking with one-ingredient foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy grains, and potatoes will be an easy way to make your meals healthier and more flavorful. You really can’t mess it up when you combine these macronutrients. Start with the basics like grilled chicken, baked potato, and steamed vegetables. As you start to cook more meals at home you will learn how to make the meals you love healthier and more flavorful. Instead of pre-pattied burgers from the meat counter, buy grass-fed ground beef or try using ground bison or lamb to make your own patties. Instead of sour cream, try non- fat plain Greek Yogurt. Instead of butter, use virgin coconut oil. Plus, you can make the cooking process more fun by getting the family involved or create ethic themed dinners like Mexican, Italian, or Asian.
Need more inspiration? Check out this ultimate cooking guide full of easy, quick, healthy, and delicious meals!
The first chapter includes information on what oils to use in cooking, how to make healthier food swaps, what foods to buy organic, and how to add more superfoods to your plate.
Overall, family meals contribute to better health and happier relationships. So no matter how busy you are, try to organize more family meals during the week. Once you start spending more time eating together, you’ll understand what you have been missing--quality time with the family.
Remember that eating should be an experience. Food is social and it is a delicious way to connect with loved ones. In my opinion, food is the greatest way to show love and is the best gift to share. Get your family around the table by making meals that are healthy, delicious, and smell fabulous! Here are some recipes to get you started.
Honey Mustard Pretzel Crusted Chicken
- 2 cups of organic panko breadcrumbs*
- 2 cups of organic pretzels, ground in a food processor*
- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup of Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup of raw, organic or local honey
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 4 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ½ cup of organic white whole wheat flour
- Preheat oven to 400⁰ F. Lightly grease large baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray.
- Add panko and pretzel crumbs to a medium-sized shallow bowl. Add oil, mustard honey, water and vinegar to a food processors and pulse to mix. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness using a mallet. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
- To set up dipping station, pour half of the honey mustard dressing into a large shallow bowl and reserve the rest for dipping once chicken is cooked. Place flour in a small shallow bowl.
- Dip each chicken breast in the flour then into the dressing and then into the pretzel panko mixture. Place on baking sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes and serve with the remaining honey mustard dressing.
*Always look at the ingredients when buying packaged/boxed foods
Grilled Caesar Salad Pizza
Basic Pizza Crust
(Use a healthier pre-made crust or naan bread if you don’t want to make your own)
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp. Bob’s Red Mill active yeast
- 1 tbsp. organic cane sugar
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups of organic white whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup of pesto
- 2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
- ¼ cup of shaved parmesan cheese
- ½ cup of chopped carrots
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup of sheep's feta, crumbled
- ¼ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese (for topping)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- Sea salt & black pepper to taste
- To make crust, mix together warm water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes until yeast mixture forms bubbles.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine salt, oil, and flour with a hand held mixer. Add yeast and water to the flour mixture and mix until mixture forms a dough ball. Form into a nice ball. Coat bottom of bowl with a little olive oil and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- While dough is rising, combine salad ingredients except Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss to mix.
- Combine dressing ingredients and add enough dressing to coat salad. Toss to mix. Add in Parmesan and carrots and mix once more.
- Set grill to medium heat. Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean-floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Roll each portion out to a ¼ inch thickness.
- Brush olive oil on one side each pizza crust and place crusts oil-side down on grill. Cook with the cover up until the bottom of the crust has nice grill marks and is stiff enough to flip (about 5-7 minutes).
- Brush a small amount of pesto on crust once flipped and cover grill. Cook for another 5 minutes and remove crusts from grill.
- Divide salad mixture evenly among pesto crusts and top with Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
*Top with organic grilled chicken breast if preferred.