“In Perspective” – easy cooking

Fast and sustainable weight loss can be found in the kitchen, where we spent considerably more time just 40 years ago when being overweight was not an American disease. Cooking for weight loss requires overcoming the perception that cooking quality meals takes more time than we have, that it is harder than it’s worth or that it’s expensive. This perception has swayed opinion and cooking habits to influence the majority of us to eat outside of the home more than half the time and to report that much of our meal preparation relies on pre-packaged, simple meals prepared in under 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, the majority of fast meals include a plethora of chemical ingredients and the removal of key micro-nutrients, like unrefined fats and the anti-oxidants and vitamins that would otherwise limit the shelf-life of the natural or unprocessed ingredients. It’s unfortunate, but nutrition quality is extremely hard to maintain with an extended shelflife or convenience of a product – and the lack of nutrition contributes to weight gain, feeling sluggish and even feeling less happy.

Below are a few interesting stats on food preparation obtained from the NHANES Nutrition & Health surveys and the USDA to help put this perception into perspective.

  • The average American spends eight hours a day in front of a screen (mostly the television) and spends more time watching cooking shows than actually cooking.
  • Convenience foods are easy on the time-line, but lack the nutrients to maintain our waistline.
  • Europeans spend nearly 20 percent of their income on food, Americans only about 9 percent.
  • 28% of Americans report that they can’t cook at all.
  • 33% of Americans call variations of mac and cheese for most meals.
  • 70% of adult Americans now consider ‘breakfast’ to be beverage-only, like tea, coffee, juice, milk, smoothie or energy drink.
  • During your weight loss phase, if you learn just two new meals to cook, you will have doubled & tripled your expertise.

Here’s what REAL habit-change and easy cooking habits can look like:
People who choose quality ingredients, like theFEWL food plan foods, are healthier and eat 50% less fast food (Journal Academy Nutr. Dietetics Jan 2013).

Make it small, temporary and in the beginning, convenient.

  • Plan on cooking twice a week for the next three weeks. This is achievable and enough to cement a new behavior, according to Nike designers who found five sessions to be minimal magic number for adopting change after looking at 1.2 million users.
  • Read a recipe from start to finish BEFORE buying ingredients to ensure you know what you’re getting into and you won’t waste any time.
  • Take pictures of it all.
  • Don’t worry about following a recipe exactly – recipes for meals are more like guidelines.
  • You have permission to be wasteful in the beginning of your cooking career – it takes time to learn efficiencies.
  • Your training in the kitchen will transfer to your world outside it.

Minimal effort, maximal learning.


You don’t need more recipes, you need to learn to cook without them. Removing steps and ingredients in a recipe often makes the food taste BETTER and it makes the dish faster to make and to clean up. This increases the likely-hood that you’ll make the dish again.

The best methods of cooking are the ones you’ll use more than once because it’s easy. Refer to the Helpful Cooking Basics for simple ideas and tools to use.

Probe it:

Use a probe thermometer for just about everything – you’ll never wonder if something is ‘done’ again.

  • Set the oven at 350 F (180 C). This temperature works for almost 90% of everything. Just use the probe thermometer for all proteins to ensure temperatures are above 140 F (60 C) and yank ‘em when the alarm goes off.
  • This is the magic temperature for Stove-top frying: less makes things soggy, more makes things crisper faster.

Just steam it:

Just steam vegetables – put ½ “ water in a pot, throw in veggies, cover and leave for 5 – 15 minutes on high. Just check in every few minutes to see if they’re done to your liking.

Add insurance:

Add any spice or avocado to make anything delicious.
Stick with what you know at first: let the FEWL food plan be your guide for shopping for familiar foods to learn to cook differently.

Make it pretty:

Add a garnish of any kind.
Stack things atop or beside each other to make them look tall.

As you gain cooking confidence, you’ll learn that for each spice or herb, there is an anchor dish.

  • Rosemary = lamb or beef.
  • Cilantro = a vietnamese dish
  • Sage = chicken
  • Fennel or dill = fish
  • Tarragon = eggs
  • Basil = tomatoes

In good health,
Jeff K

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