Prioritising home-cooked meals |16 September 2022
As food prices continue to skyrocket we all need to be more mindful of how we spend our money and what we choose to buy. We have talked about how we can incorporate cheap, healthy foods in our day-to-day meals but many of us don’t realise how much money we spend on take-away.
We’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we do not have time or access to a home-cooked meal. In this case we might end up at a take-away or fast food outlet for a meal.
There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is occasional but we certainly shouldn’t make it a daily habit. The biggest problem with most take-away meals here is how the meals are being prepared and the amount dished out.
What’s in your take-away box?
Most take-aways offer a variety of meals from Creole dishes to Continental. It can therefore be tempting to think that take-away is a healthy option to have every day.
One has to be mindful of the fact however that most meals are high in salt as a result of the amount of ready-made and packaged sauces used; are often high in fat due to the amount of oil used in meal preparations or for deep-frying of foods as well as the use of fatty meats and processed meats; and high in total calories (energy) as a result of the large portion of carbohydrates dished out in the take-away boxes, especially white rice, which tends to make up half or more of the box.
Portion size distortion
We’ve been preaching for a long time about the importance of portion sizes of all components of a meal using ‘My Healthy Plate’ and for a good reason. A balanced meal has a large amount of vegetables, with moderate amounts of protein and carbohydrates.
Most take-away meals however have a large portion of white rice; a moderate amount of protein and a very small amount of vegetables (most times barely there!)
Large rice portions often lead to over-consumption as most people try to finish the entire meal. This can contribute to excessive weight gain as well as other health complications over time.
Make the right choice
Despite the fact that take-away meals offer convenience, it is always good to have a look around and try to choose an outlet which offers healthier options especially if you are consuming take-away meals regularly.
Try asking for less rice and more vegetables especially the salad. To compensate for the reduced white rice portion you can include some lentils which is not only a great source of carbohydrates but also protein and fibre.
If they have other options like breadfruit, sweet potatoes or cassava then try to include them more often instead of white rice (Not together!)
Choose more fish dishes (excluding deep-fried options) as often as possible. If you enjoy meat, then choose more chicken instead of red meat like beef and pork. Limit deep-fried options like battered chicken or fish, fried fish to not more than twice a month.
As much as you can, avoid meal options with processed meats like sausages or luncheon meat especially if you are already buying and consuming these at home.
Choose home-made meals more often
The best bet however to not only saving money but also having a healthy meal remains with cooking your meal yourself at home. And although you might not be there yet to being able to cook daily, any small changes you can make will make a huge difference in the long run. Below are some reasons why home-cooked meals can be more beneficial for you.
Better for your budget
Healthy foods are thought to be expensive but take-away meals can easily turn out to cost more. A simple calculation of a daily take-away costing R75 means that in 5 days you would have spent R375 and in a month R1500. That is the cost of one meal per day for one person.
At a time when we should all be a bit more conscious of our spending we can all agree that, that is a lot of money which could have been diverted to your weekly shopping of healthy produce like fruits, vegetables, oats, lentil, beans, tubers, eggs and fish.
It’s also worth noting that these ingredients while appearing to cost more can actually create an entire meal for a family of four and many can be used in the creation of more than just one dish.
Although we understand that many people lean towards take-away meals because it removes the need to cook, cooking at home doesn’t have to be a chore and you don’t have to be a chef to create wholesome and delicious meals. There are many meal ideas that can take under an hour to prepare (which would typically include any chopping, peeling, cutting, grating, etc.) and cook.
Cooking at home also means that you know exactly which ingredients you are using and also how much. You can basically recreate any of your favourite ‘fast food’ at home for a fraction of the cost and make it more nutrient-dense.
For example, instead of the overly processed frozen chips at the take-away you can prepare oven baked potato chips at home using fresh potatoes; served with baked crumbed chicken or roast chicken instead of the deep-fried battered chicken; and you can even include some vegetables as a salad.
For those who don’t enjoy spending hours on end daily to cook, then try cooking in bulk and storing the leftovers in the fridge or freezer. This means that on days when you’re feeling a bit tired you can just defrost the stored meal, prepare some fresh salad and rice or tubers, and in under half an hour dinner is ready.
If you are buying a take-away for lunch every day, cooking a bit extra at dinner time means that you can have the leftovers as lunch the next day. It might not work for all meals but at least it can help you reduce your take-away intake to let’s say twice a week rather than on all five weekdays.
More ‘family times’
Eating is more than just a biological mechanism of fulfilling our body’s need for energy and nutrients. There is also a social aspect to it that many of us have become unaccustomed to. Meal times is an ideal time to sit around the table and talk about our day and just basically a time for catching up. This can have a positive impact on our mental health.
Another positive aspect to cooking at home is involving the kids in meal preparation and getting them to appreciate healthy foods which often helps them to enjoy the final dish.
Whatever your reason for choosing take-away meals remember to keep it as an occasional treat rather than a daily routine. This can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health in the long run.
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And don't forget to drop us a little email on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you're doing with these ideas, or better still, share your favourite dishes or tips.
Yours in health
The E4OH Team