Feeling stressed or anxious after a long day? Research has found that coming home and preparing a meal can significantly lower that stress and anxiety!
How you ask? Your mind becomes occupied with the task at hand – finding a recipe, collecting all of your ingredients from the fridge and pantry, compiling them one by one to create something delicious, then getting to sit down and enjoy your hard work. You focus on being in the moment instead of on what will happen at work tomorrow, the fact that you have to pack for your upcoming trip, you need to call the pharmacy and refill your medication, etc.
That “present” mindset can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, and cooking meals at home is a great way to get started. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can waltz in the door, open the fridge, and trust that there is a stress-free meal waiting for you. With just a bit of planning, you could see huge benefits in both your emotional and physical health, not to mention your wallet.
Eating at home is also a huge budget saver. Saving money… talk about reducing stress! You are only buying the grocery ingredients that you need, and avoiding spending your hard-earned cash on drive-thru, take-out, or delivery.
If you are a drive-thru devotee, it likely seems a little daunting to plan and prepare meals at home, but it really is quite simple! Try assigning one type of recipe for each night of the week to get you started. For example, Meatless Mondays (Veggie Stir-fry one week and Vegetable Lasagna the next) and Taco Tuesdays (beef tacos one week and chicken or shrimp the next.)
You’ll know exactly which recipes you are going to prepare and when. Never underestimate the stress-prevention technique of having a plan. Not to mention the time it will save you – making one trip to the supermarket every week instead of multiple trips to get an item on the fly.
Put your recipes on your family calendar, or print them out and stick the list to the fridge. This will prevent the daily “What are we having for dinner?” question! Speaking of family, ask your dining companions for help with choosing the next week’s recipes. This not only spreads the responsibility around, it makes the chooser more likely to favor their recipe. For example, give your picky eaters the task of choosing two meals for the next week. They will be much more willing to try a recipe they chose themselves, and even more likely to enjoy eating a meal they helped to prepare themselves.
Make a list of the ingredients you will need for each of your chosen recipes. Check your fridge and pantry for ingredients you may already have. This saves food and money! You can even choose your recipes based on foods you have that need to be utilized.
Do as much preparation for your meals as you can. Wash your vegetables upon returning home from the grocery store. If you only plan to use half of that pound of ground beef this week, go ahead and put the other half in the freezer.
To seriously reduce your stress and make cooking at home an even easier and more pleasant experience, try a few of these time-saving recipe hacks!
For salads, use greens that are pre-washed and ready to eat. From spicy arugula to good ole’ iceberg or romaine, you can find a wide variety of salad greens in the produce section at your local supermarket. Simply add a piece of grilled chicken, salmon, or steak and turn that side salad into an entrée! If you aren’t a meat eater, add some garbanzo beans, or tofu to your salad. Top with veggies like avocado, bell pepper, tomato and cucumber, then drizzle with oil and vinegar. You’ve got a quick and easy lunch or dinner, and the perfect recipe for stable blood sugar!
While fresh, whole foods should make up the majority of your diet, don’t turn up your nose at frozen foods. We’re not talking TV dinners or frozen pizza here. Frozen veggies like green beans, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli bring meals together in a flash! You can even find healthy frozen side dishes like cauliflower rice and use it to make some seriously delicious low-carb fried rice. Frozen berries are perfect for smoothies!
Whole grains like quinoa can take up to 45 minutes to cook on the stovetop, but can now be ready in 90 seconds in the microwave (check your local supermarket rice aisle.) Talk about a quick and easy way to add nutrition to your meals! One cup of quinoa contains 8 grams or protein, 5 grams of fiber, and is a complex carbohydrate, which the body processes more slowly than regular carbs. This combination not only fills you up, it helps stabilize your blood sugar, too!
Preparing meals at home is also a great way to better control your blood sugar. You know exactly what is in your meals, and you are in complete control of the food you eat, which directly translates to how you feel. Cooking at home not only sets you (and your family) up for improved health and better tasting food, but for less stress. Let’s get cookin’!