My top 5 tips for more home cooking

This week is Australia's Healthy Weight Week (AHWW), an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia, which highlights the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, through a range of different events and activities. The focus this year is to inspire Australian's to enjoy home-cooked meals more often, which generally leads to a higher consumption of fruits and veggies, and a lower consumption of fat, salt and sugar, and as such is a great way to increase the nutrition in your diet. They have also released an awesome downloadable cookbook, so have a look if you're need some inspiration in the kitchen. 

I am a big fan of home cooked meals, and I think learning to cook and prepare food is a very powerful tool to take control of your health and to eat more nourishing foods. I also think that taking the time to cook something from scratch makes you really enjoy and savour the food that you have prepared, and makes you more connected with the food and ingredients. Cooking at home is a great bonding activity for couples, and also for parents and children, not to mention it's a lot cheaper than eating out. There are many benefits of enjoying home cooked meals, however, there are also barriers to regularly cooking, which are usually not having enough time, not knowing how to cook, and not enjoying cooking. As this is my first year for AHWW as a student dietitian, I've put together my top 5 tips to overcome these barriers and to enjoy getting back in the kitchen.  

1- Make a plan. You know the saying 'fail to plan is planning to fail', well I don't know if it's exactly planning to fail but it's a lot easier and more tempting to opt for takeaway if you get home from work at 6pm starving, with no ingredients to cook dinner, and no idea what to make. 

Waiting until we are already hungry to plan what we eat isn't the best idea, we're much more likely to opt for the high calorie, convenience foods, and cooking will seem like too much effort. Make a plan on the weekend, and map out what you will eat during the week or when you have events on and won't be eating at home. It doesn't have to be precise, but if you know how many lunches/dinners you will need meals for you can cater for that accordingly.   

2- Stock your fridge. Once you have a plan with how many meals you will be at home for during the week, and have decided what you want to eat on those days, the next step is to go shopping and stock your fridge and pantry for the week ahead. Frozen veggies are a good idea, as they won't go off in a hurry, also tinned fish (tuna, salmon, mussels) and tinned legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) are good to have on hand to create a last minute meal, and you can keep them forever in your pantry. 

3- Take turns. If there's more than one of you living in your house, there should be more than one of you cooking. If you take turns with who will plan, prepare and cook your evening meals they will be a lot more varied, you'll get a break from cooking a few nights a week, and you're likely to enjoy doing the cooking a lot more when it's your turn. 

4- Mix it up. Not all of your meals need to be an instagrammable work of art. Sure, making a dish visually pleasing can help make the whole experience of eating more enjoyable, but for nights when you're exhausted and hungry, dinner can be as simple as grainy toast with a veggie egg scramble. It's nice to try cooking new dishes and putting more time and thought in to your cooking, but it's also good to be able to prepare a quick and simple dinner if you're in a hurry. Don't let the time you have put you off cooking, just work with it, got 5 minutes? use a microwave rice pouch, steam some veggies, and open a tin of tuna. Or have a few hours? put a roast in the oven with lots of veggies and make a nice gravy. A healthy home cooked meal can be as simple or complicated as you make it, and your key to success will be to just work with the time and motivation you have for any given night.  

5- Take time and enjoy cooking. Make a date night around cooking a new dish, invite friends over to cook dinner and have a glass of wine, get the kids in the kitchen and have a chat while you're cooking together, or just enjoy some good music and a nice cup of tea while you're cooking by yourself. Cooking shouldn't be thought of as a chore, make it a fun activity and you'll want to do it a lot more often. 

If you're struggling with regularly cooking your meals why not try some of these tips and see if they help?  I'm interested to hear from you about what strategies you find useful for cooking more regularly. Let me know in the comments section below :)