How do you get motivated to cook when takeout is calling your name? It's hard but I'll tell you how we stopped dialling for delivery and started eating healthier without missing a step.
How many of us have a list of take out restaurants at our fingertips at home and at the office? It often feels so much easier to reach for the phone and order pizza, Chinese, subs..whatever. So how can you get motivated to cook when all you want to do is dial out for dinner?
First, you have to make it easy to make a healthy choice and second, you have to make it fun.
There are three basic ways I make cooking at home more appealing than ordering out.
First, I plan ahead.
I know, I know! It sounds awful and demanding and “how can you possibly plan a full week of dinners!” but let me tell you, meal planning is your friend! From your waistline to your pocketbook to avoiding migraines from preservatives and flavor enhancers used by restaurants, your whole life is going to thank you for this small act of organization. And it can be really simple.
Pick seven meals. If they require recipes, find them online for free.
It’s as easy as typing in “healthy recipes” into Google, and BAM!...You’ve got recipes. Or if you like receiving something in your mailbox other than bills and flyers for the local dry cleaner, subscribe to magazines like Clean Eating, Cooking Light, etc. I love receiving glossy healthy living magazines!
It's one thing to have recipes and another thing to be able to find them quickly. After years of never knowing where my favorite recipes were stored, I finally started using technology to help me. And there are several sites that let you search and then store your favorite recipes and create shopping lists for free (like All Recipes, Food Network). Or you can upgrade to a paid version on Food Network or Plan to Eat for more premium features and cooking lessons.
Second, I prep ahead!
Before you head off to work, defrost anything that needs defrosting. There is no better motivation to cook the chicken than having a fully defrosted bird sitting in the fridge when you get home (or walk from your home office to your kitchen). Give it a quick rinse and a rub down with olive oil and herbs and it’s into the oven at 350º for the next hour and a half, which gives you plenty of time to do other things. You get the idea.
Another prep ahead tip is to start gathering your dinner ingredients while you are making breakfast. When your work day is done, the quinoa will be on the counter, ready for action. You’ll have zero stress over what to make and half the work will already be done.
Do whatever you can ahead of time. I am a HUGE fan of Sunday batch cooking so my week nights are more about assembly than cooking. I pre-roast chicken breasts, ground turkey, and roasted veggies. I slice, dice, and chop anything that will keep for at least 5 days. That way I just have to portion out existing ingredients and add spices to create a week’s worth of meals.
Third, I get inspired!
One of the things that keeps me out of the kitchen is feeling stuck in a rut so once or twice a week I try something new. Try thinking of cooking as a creative outlet instead of a chore and you’ll be much more motivated to cook at home. One word of warning, don’t overestimate yourself. Getting too ambitious can actually kill your motivation to cook.
I like to take a few minutes to scroll through cooking sites to find new ideas. I only look at recipes with a 4 or 5 star rating and I’m picky about ingredients. The fewer the better! The pictures and descriptions usually motivate me to save one or two to my online recipe box (or print out to tuck into my recipe drawer) and then I cycle them into my usual routine. A great tool to have in the kitchen for voice activated help finding recipes is the Echo Show where you can ask Alexa to help you. Or you can set up your iPad or Kindle Fire on the counter to follow along with the online recipe if you don’t want to print anything.
You can even try a new cooking toy. How about a spiralizer? I liked my little plastic spiralizer so much that I also bought the attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. (I must confess that I do love my kitchen gadgets! But the spiralizer is one that I pull out weekly to use!) If you don’t own one, these little gadgets turn things like zucchini into a pasta substitute that is tasty and low cal. Top it with almost anything and you’ve got a homemade meal heavy on the veggies. New knives or a novelty can opener can up your fun quotient too. And fun is always motivating!
Speaking of fun, music is universally inspiring. Make a killer playlist for cooking and rock out while you chop out. Put on some music that gets you happy and make cooking dinner a party. Most of us use music to inspire our workouts. Why not let your favorite tunes motivate you to cook too? (I’ve always loved cooking with Aretha Franklin cranked up in the background)
The point is to take care of yourself with food.
Here are 5 reasons cooking at home trumps dialing out:
1) You’ll have more energy!
When you’re in control of the food you eat you can make sure you are getting energizing foods like broccoli, cabbage, and kale in your diet. Blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, and fatty fish packed full of Omega 3s are all great for your brain. The nutrients in these foods actually supply motivation.
2) You’ll eat less salt and MSG!
In restaurants, chefs depend on fat and salt to boost flavor. On top of that, many chain restaurants use canned or frozen ingredients, loaded with salt and preservatives, as a base. And fast food is notorious for its sodium content because it’s such a quick, cheap, flavor-enhancing trick. And most use migraine triggering flavor enhancers like MSG, yeast extract, or autolyzed yeast. Deadly brain excitotoxins! When you cook at home you control how much and what kind of sodium you ingest. A sprinkle of sea salt at the table is so much better for you than a teaspoon of table salt or MSG in the restaurant kitchen.
3) You’ll eat healthy fats!
Instead of consuming trans fats and cheap, low-nutrition, high-calorie fats that damage your heart and make you fat, you can cook with good fats like olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil. Healthy fats help to form cell membranes and build bone. They increase calcium absorption and boost your bone health.
4) You’ll be less stressed!
Instead of thinking about cooking as a chore, start thinking of it as taking control of your life. Eating well is the cornerstone of good health. It’s also a creative daily activity that can help you focus, put things in perspective, relieve worries, and put you in an almost meditative state. Cooking is a great way to make yourself mindful.
5) You’ll save money!
The salmon and brown rice you prepare in thirty minutes at home costs about $5 per person. If that same entrée costs $21 at your favorite restaurant and you serve four people, you can save $64 in one night. Ca-ching! Savings like that can add up to a great pair of shoes, a weekend getaway, or a dozen other “extras.”
Not everyone loves to cook. It’s a fact.
But everyone can find the motivation to cook.
Your health, your relationships, and your wallet all get a huge boost from a home cooked meal. So when you’re looking for motivation to cook over dialing for dinner, just remember to keep it simple and fun. The benefits you win just by putting down your phone and picking up your spatula should help keep you in the kitchen and out of your car.