Did you know that in the average American home, 50% of the budgeted food dollars are spent on meals prepared outside the home? These “out-sourced” meals end up being higher in fat and sugar content while also containing fewer fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Conversely, meals prepared at home are associated with better dietary quality, especially in regards to fruit and vegetable consumption. Don’t get along with your stove? We partnered with Hello Fresh to spread the word on the importance of home cooked meals. Rebecca Lewis, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist & Nutrition Manager aka the “Champion of Nutrients,” at Hello Fresh, wants to demystify cooking and break through barriers in the kitchen. Discover tips for getting back in the kitchen, connecting with fresh foods and rebuilding your confidence in cooking.
By Rebecca Lewis
Of all the common barriers across all demographic groups, time is the biggest barrier contributing to lack of cooking at home. Moreover, the average person’s self-confidence beliefs regarding the ability to cook food at home has significantly decreased. Thus there is a real need to empower people to put health back in their own hands through cooking experimentation in the kitchen. Want to step up your kitchen game? Check out these tips:
WHAT IT MEANS TO EAT INFORMATIVELY
We are all busy in our daily lives, but taking a small portion of the day to slow down and focus on a basic need like food – sustains us more than just nutritionally. Food has the power to connect us to our bodies, our emotional drives, other people, and even nature itself. Food is social. When I think of cooking and eating, the image that immediately comes to mind is the comfortable and intimate nature of sharing a meal between friends and family.
My approach food is this – I want food to make me healthier so that I can make my life more vibrant in order to achieve the activities I want that day and every day in my life – I ask myself, “how is this food going to make me feel today?” If I need more energy in the day, what I eat can contribute to my overall health and longevity.
Moreover, I want to have a good relationship with food – we should ask how what it is we choose to eat will make us feel after consuming it as a consequence. Additionally, we should be self-aware when reaching into the refrigerator and really ask ourselves, “Am I eating this for comfort or because I am actually hungry?” Sometimes we use food as a source of comfort and it doesn’t have to be that way. Food can be used to make us feel better but we can be mindfully when it comes to our selection.
Nutrition is about more than just calories – it is our small everyday choices that eventually lead to an accumulated lifetime of good nutrition. Here are some tips on becoming more informed, and rethinking the way you eat:
- PLAN OUT YOUR WEEK: Think about what you need to accomplish in the day or what is going on in the week; for example, if you know you’re going to take a high intensity, cardio-driven Flywheel class, your post-workout snack should be a higher carb to protein ratio than normal to help you recover quicker and refuel your muscles with glycogen. By planning ahead, you avoid making poor food choices (and letting all your hard work go to waste) when you’re already hungry. I plan my meals before I choose to eat them by creating a balance of all the nutrients in my meals, including; calories, carbs, protein, fat, fiber and sugar. I also make sure I “eat the rainbow” – in other words I consume a colorful diet (don’t forget we eat with our eyes first) of mostly fruits and vegetables. Something to keep in mind is that typically, the more colorful, the more nutrients. Bottom line, you want to be healthy but you also want to enjoy the foods you eat.
- COOKING AND EATING: Cooking is the best way to make sure you are informed with what you are eating – because YOU are selecting everything in the dish you are preparing. There’s a reason that when you dine out, food seems to taste so good! Restaurant chefs tend to be heavier with salt, butter, sugar, etc. than you would ever be at home. Having the ability to cook at home puts YOU in control of the cooking – you can physically see how much of any ingredient you are putting into your meal, and you are more likely to make informed decisions.
- MINDFULNESS: Remember to focus your time and attention when you eat. The activity of eating in itself IS the full activity – in other words, we shouldn’t be multitasking when we eat. Pay attention and engage your senses (what does the food look like, smell like, and sound like when you bite into it?) I try not to just eat really fast because I am hungry or have somewhere else to be – because at that point I’m not really savoring my food.
FOOD MYTHS: DEBUNKED
Optimal health and exercise performance are dependent on the right foods and fluids, as well as the timing of intake. There is a general rule of “energy out must equal energy in to achieve energy balance,” – which is a good one, but that said, the energy systems used during exercise are extremely complicated. Additionally, the energy spent in exercise will vary depending on the types of exercise, the duration, frequency, and intensity of the exercise, as well as the gender of the athlete, and prior nutritional status. Heredity, age, and body size can also influence how energy is spent.
We have to understand what happens to our bodies when we work out, and in order to optimize the benefits of a training session and jumpstart recovery, it is critical to consume a post-workout recovery meal that blends both carbohydrate and protein within 30-45 minutes after training. Food needs to be balanced – and that means a blend of BOTH protein and carbs. Carbohydrates are used to replace muscle glycogen. Protein is used to provide amino acids for building and repair of muscle tissue and ensure rapid recovery for muscle gains. This all in an effort to increase performance on the next workout and optimize immune function!
The correct ration of the carbs and protein will depend upon the intensity and duration of the training. For a cardio-heavy workout, the ideal post-workout meal will have a higher ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This will ensure the maximum amount of glycogen will be produced and replaced in the muscle tissue. Comparatively, if the workout was focused on weight training, the ideal post-workout meal will have a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates to make sure there is enough fuel and amino acids to repair muscle fiber tissues that have been broken down during training.
FUEL YOUR FLY
- COME BACK TO THE EARTH: Given the choice, athletes should eat clean, whole non-processed foods as often as possible! This includes a balance of fruits, veggies, carbohydrates, and either meat or vegetarian based protein. I try to reach for things that don’t come in a box or a bag – which is often indicative of a highly processed food product that is “shelf-stable” (which means that boxed/bagged food is typically higher in sodium and preservatives).
- EAT THE VEGGIE RAINBOW: Generally speaking, the more colorful, the more nutrient dense a food is! Fruits and veggies are packed with essential vitamins, mineral, and antioxidants. These are critical components for an athlete to enhance recovery and serve in improved immune function.
- DON’T FEAR CARBS: The important thing is to pick a mix of complex and simple carbs. Choose whole-grains and a piece of fruit. The fruit will deliver the quick simple carbs needed immediately, and the complex carbs (typically also packed full of fiber) will sustain satiety.
- FISH AND MEAT: Fish and poultry are leaner cuts of meat and have higher ratios of protein to fat ratio – making them an ideal choice for recovery, especially after strength training.
- VEGETARIAN PROTEINS: Nuts, beans, and dairy are all a rich source of protein. Just a ¼ cup of almonds for example contains 8g of protein. 6 oz. of Greek yogurt contains 17g of protein.
- FATS THAT GIVE BACK: Foods rich in omega-3 will help reduce inflammation – which is especially important after an intense workout. This nutrient can be found in fish. Avocados are another rich source of healthy fats – not to mention that one avocado has nearly all the fiber requirements recommended daily.
- Whole-wheat toast with half a banana and a dash of cinnamon
- Carrots/Celery/Bell Peppers and Hummus
- Egg + Avocado
- Fruit + Nut Butter
- Hard-boiled eggs + Cheese
- Greek Yogurt + Almonds
- Grilled Chicken + veggies
- Salmon + sweet potatoes
- Tuna dip with lemon and whole wheat crackers
- Oatmeal + berries
- Spiced beans + feta
- 4 oz. low-fat Chocolate Milk
LEARN MORE ABOUT HELLO FRESH
Here at HelloFresh, we strive to demystify cooking in order to break the barriers many people face when making the choice to cook (or not) at home. We want our customers to be excited when they arrive home and find their HelloFresh box filled with gorgeous, colorful, and nutrient rich fresh foods. Our chefs carefully curate recipes so that our customers can look forward to bringing the to life in their own kitchens. We hope that our customers find that cooking brings them closer to their spouse, children, and friends as they prepare meals together. Most importantly, we aspire to motivate our customers to overcome the challenges of cooking and we want to empower our customers to take control of their own health by making the conscious choice to cook at home more often.
Some of my favorite recipes are the most simple, and always have a balance of nutrients; Seared Steak with Crispy Potatoes, Burst Tomatoes, and Garlicky Green Beans & a Shallot Pan sauce, Toasted brown rice protein bowl, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, green beans, and scallions.
Rebecca Lewis is the Registered Dietician/Nutritionist, as well as the Nutrition Manager at HelloFresh. HelloFresh is the only meal kit company with a Dietitian on staff, and Rebecca develops the nutritional goals for all recipes as well as serving as a media spokesperson. She manages the team of chefs, ensuring every recipe has a complete nutritional profile. It is her mission to change the world by empowering people to take control of their health