Cook Quickly, Eat Slowly
For many busy people home cooking means a take-out meal from the closest fast-food franchise. In fact, recent statistics show that the average American household spends about $2,500 annually at take-out establishments and restaurants, or about 71 percent of what it spends on groceries ($3,500). This percentage is even higher for householders aged 25 to 34 (81 percent) and for people who live alone (79 percent). And these numbers appear to be growing—along with our waistlines.
The sad reality is that two-thirds of American adults and one-third of the children in this country are either overweight or obese. Today, the typical baby boomer male weighs just shy of 200 pounds and the average baby boomer female weighs more than 170. That’s in part because a typical fast-food quarter-pound cheeseburger packs a hefty 500 calories, the large fries another 500, the supersized soda 300 more, and an ice cream dessert an additional 500. That’s 1,800 calories from a single meal! Couple that with the fact most people don’t exercise enough and it’s small wonder that conditions like diabetes and heart disease are on the rise, and few of us feel very good about what we see in the mirror.
I bring up these statistics for a good reason. If we continue at this sad pace, dining out more than we’re eating in and skipping the supermarket for the drive-thru, this country’s burgeoning obesity epidemic will have dire consequences, not just for our present and future health but for our health-care system as well. Doctors and hospitals simply won’t be able to handle all the new cases of prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other obesity-related conditions. The good news? One of our most effective remedies for all of these ailments can be found in our own refrigerators, pantries, and cupboards.
That said, I know few of us have time to linger in the kitchen, stirring up elaborate meals from scratch. As a practicing cardiologist who often gets home from the office late and who doesn’t cook all that well myself. I rely on my very busy wife to make sure I eat nutritious meals Fortunately, she stocks the kitchen with the kind of healthy ingredients needed to put good meals together quickly. So if she isn’t home to cook due to her own busy schedule, I can put together and easy, speedy meal.
The point is, if you plan your meals ahead, shop thoughtfully, and organize your pantry and kitchen for quick cooking, you’ll easily be able to turn out healthy food for the whole family with very little stress. And I guarantee you’ll look and feel better for it, too.
I often like to remind my patients who enjoy cooking that preparing a meal quickly should not translate to rushing at the table. Eating thoughtfully and slowly, really tasting what we eat, allows us to experience a sense of fullness naturally without overeating. I remember as a child always being told to clean my plate. For me, that was an invitation to wolf down dinner and get on to other things. Today, I’m sorry to say that I still tend to eat a bit too quickly; I often have to remind myself not to take seconds before my brain gets the signal that I’m full.
I like to say that you should eat until you are satisfied, not until you are full. Research now shows that routinely galloping through meals often leads to chronic overeating and obesity. This is because putting too much food in your stomach too quickly can interfere with the body’s feedback mechanisms, allowing you to continue to take in more calories because you don’t feel full. I recommend starting a lunch or dinner meal with a filling cup of soup or with a fiber-rich salad. I also suggest putting down your fork between bites. Don’t worry if you leave some food on your plate; if you are satisfied, you’ve had enough.
Preparing healthy recipes like those in my South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook represents the ultimate win-win scenario for me. Not only will you be eating far better than you would were you spending your food dollars in restaurants or on processed foods, but the time you save in the kitchen means that you will have more time to relax, savor your food, and enjoy some good conversation with your family and friends. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s what home cooking should be about.
Adapted The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook by Arthur Agatston, M.D. © 2010 by Arthur Agatston, M.D. By arrangement with Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.