How to make a U-turn from the fast food drive-through to healthy home cooking

'Order Here' by kejoli CC 2.0

‘Order Here’ by kejoli CC 2.0

There are a lot of reasons that fast food is popular, since it’s quick, tasty and cheap. At the end of a hard day at work, it can be tempting to run into a fast food chain on the way to the bus stop or make a turn into the drive-through and pick up a burger with fries.

Unfortunately, the price of fast food can be too high in the long run, because many offerings from the major chains are laden with saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and preservatives. Delivery meals may look and taste more appealing, but they are also high in sodium and very expensive for the amount of food you get.

5 ways to turn your diet around:

The best way to avoid being tempted by fast food is to have what you need to whip up tasty, healthier meals quickly at home. Doing a bit of shopping, food prep and cooking on weekends can provide you with enough choices to last several days if you plan ahead.

Here are a few tricks for easy meals.

1. Buy herbs and veggies when they’re cheap and freeze them. There are some ingredients that you’ll use frequently in recipes, but maybe not frequently enough to keep them from spoiling before you use them up. Buy your favorites when they’re cheaper because they’re on sale and in season, and chop them up while they’re fresh. Cut into small pieces or use a food processor, then stash them into a freezer baggie.

2. Stock up on the basics. Great veggies to have on hand for use in soups, sauces and other dishes are the “Cajun trinity” of bell peppers, onions and celery, plus carrots, green onions, jalapeno peppers, spinach and parsley. Also, be on the lookout for usually overpriced fresh herbs like chives that have been marked down and add them to the freezer.

3. Cook ahead for the week. Once you know you can rely on having the ingredients you need in the freezer, I gets easier to come up with fast and easy recipes that can be cooked over the weekend. One of the easiest is soup — just take a can of diced tomatoes or tomato paste, add your choice of dried peas, beans or legumes, a bit of pasta, add a little oil, lots of spices and several of those frozen veggies for a delicious pot of soup that’s great for lunch or dinner with a sandwich.

Colorful chard from Triple T Ranch & Farm in Santa Rosa.

Colorful chard from Triple T Ranch & Farm in Santa Rosa.

4. Use veggies while they’re fresh. Vegetables are always at their best, as well as their cheapest, when they’re in season. So pick up a few favorites every week and prepare them simply to take advantage of the fresh taste and texture.

5. Use your imagination. There’s no end to the wonderful things you can do with fresh veggies, a few herbs and a little imagination:

• Simmer baby carrots in butter with dill weed for a tender, fragrant side dish.
• Green beans are delicious sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a dusting of sesame seeds on top.
• Tomatoes are plentiful and ripe in summer, so make a delicious soup from plum tomatoes, garlic, onions and olive oil with red pepper, black pepper, thyme and lots of basil.
• Salsa doesn’t have to come in a jar. Combine fresh tomatillos with onions, Serrano peppers, garlic, cumin, cilantro and oregano for a salsa verde that will liven up any meal.

Now’s the time to swear off the fast food and start cooking great meals with all-fresh ingredients!

Do you have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables where you live?

Linda Cauthen

Linda Cauthen is a freelance writer in the greater Los Angeles area.

Leave a Comment

Email (will not be published)