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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Bari Levine

The DIY Diet

This week's article was inspired by a recent personal experience: Due to COVID-19, specifically increased time at home and concern about social gatherings, for 5.5 months I had consumed only home-cooked meals. Then last week, enjoying being on vacation from work and with a strong craving for Thai curry, I had ordered in--a delicious yellow curry made. The dish hit the spot, but the next morning I woke with a sour stomach and feeling of lethargy. This made me realize that we can only properly fuel our bodies when we know exactly what we are eating. When we prepare our meals, we choose the ingredients and the amounts, and this allows us to not only manage weight but also nutritional value, gastrointestinal issues, energy levels and overall positive feelings.

Many of my clients have also been prompted by COVID-19 to prepare more meals at home. Based on our collective experiences, here are some tips to get you cooking:

  1. Invest in the right equipment. Having the right tools on hand can make food prep faster, easier and more enjoyable. Start with a good, sharp knife to make prep easy and safe. Then it's all about your food preferences. I love having bamboo steamers for a quick way to cook up vegetables. My clients also recommend using a slow cooker to prep chicken for use in a variety of recipes throughout the week, an egg cooker for hard boiled eggs as a snack or protein in a meal, an air fryer for everything from brussels sprouts to Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocci. While this may require some investment upfront, think of all the alcohol markups and delivery fees you'll save!

  2. Stock up on staples. One smart grocery shop can set you up for a lot of successful meals. Not having the right tools is one thing, but not having any ingredients on hand is a non-starter. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh ones. Dried quinoa and brown rice can be used in a variety of side dishes. And low sodium soy and no sugar added tomato sauces and curries are great flavoring shortcuts.   

  3. Redefine meal prep.  Maybe pre-cooking a week's worth of dinners is not for you, but some of my clients swear by some form of prep to help them stay on track with nutrition and other daily goals. One client cooks chicken in a slow cooker and uses it throughout the week in salads, tacos and more. She also roasts a variety of vegetables that she can add to meals throughout the week. Several clients cut up but do not cook vegetables to reduce cooking time later. Personally, I like having a cooked brown rice on hand that I can add to stir-fry or eat as a side dish. 

  4. Use recipes. Using recipes can help make not only nutritious but also delicious meals. Look for inspiration online, in cookbooks or, as one client recommends, by browsing the menus of the places you loved to eat. One of my favorite recipe blogs with veggie-driven recipes is Feasting at Home. Even if you don't follow them to a tee, recipes are great for building some small wins in the kitchen that will have you feeling like an accomplished chef.

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