Ahhh…December. Rather than think of this month as an “ending” of a year; think of it as the perfect time to plan for a fresh start. In the spirit of the season, give the gift of better health to yourself or to someone you love.
One of the most effective gateways to better health is cooking more meals at home.
In a John Hopkins Public Health study, researchers found that, among 9,000 participants, aged 20 and older, those who cooked dinner more frequently (3 or more times a week) at home, ate fewer calories than those who cooked less—both at home and when eating out. Eating home-cooked dinners was also associated with lower calorie intake and eating less fat, sugar and fast food.1
Another study of 11,000-plus participants in the U.K., aged 29 to 64, found that those who ate home-cooked meals more than 5 times a week—compared to less than 3 times a week—ate more vegetables and fruits and were significantly less likely to have a BMI or body fat percentage in the “overweight” or “obese” range.2
Irrespective of whether weight loss is a goal, eating more home-cooked meals is linked to healthier eating overall, a longer and better quality of life, and reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.3
Healthy Cooking Made Easy
Cooking at home is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your health. And you don’t have to be a 4-star chef to prepare good food. That said, investing in a few of the following handy kitchen tools makes it easier—and faster—to prepare healthy, delicious meals, like Apple Butternut Squash Soup, Jalapeno-Lime Flat Iron Steak, No-Cook Creamy Spinach Soup, Provencal Lamb Burgers, Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, Liver Cleanse Smoothie and Cast-Iron Skillet Coconut Flour Pancakes.
1. Nutribullet Prime. When you’re on-the-go, having a Nutribullet is one of the best ways to ensure an easy-to-digest healthy breakfast, whether it’s a green smoothie or protein shake.
2. Blender with a glass blender jar. It may be heavier, but using a blender with a glass blender jar is safer because it reduces your exposure to Bisphenal A, also known as BPA. An industrial chemical found in hard plastics and many food and beverage cans, BPA has been linked to fertility problems, male impotence, thyroid dysfunction and other hormone problems.
3. Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 10-inch; Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 12-inch. Many of my clients complain of low energy; those with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are often iron-deficient. Cooking with cast iron can help naturally increase your intake of iron. It is also a great substitute for non-stick cookware, which contains synthetic, hormone-disrupting PFOA and PTFE.
4. Slow Cooker, 6-quart. Plug and play! The beauty of a crockpot is that it does the cooking for you, making slow cooker meals an easy and family-friendly way to batch-cook healthy meals in advance.
5. Salad spinner. If you want to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet, a salad spinner is a must. Before I owned a salad spinner, washing greens for cooking or for salads was an arduous, time-consuming task that often resulted in a soggy (and entirely unappetizing!) salad. You can also use a salad spinner to remove excess water from just- rinsed fresh herbs, drained canned beans, fresh berries and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, and just-cooked pasta.
6. Food Processor, 14-cup. Who has time for all that chopping?! I, for one, know that I cannot live without my 14-cup food processor—which I use for everything from “chopping” mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions) for soups and stews, to whipping up purees, like a white bean puree, fresh herb pesto or a batch of dairy-free “ice cream”.
7. Vegetable Spiralizer. Making (and eating) vegetable noodles is delicious way to enjoy smart carbs, like zoodles (zucchini noodles), sweet potato, carrot or beet noodles. It’s also a fun way to introduce healthy food preparation to kids and teens.
8. Pyrex glass containers. Storing food in glass containers ensures that chemical toxins will not leach into your food. Tip: you can place a layer of unbleached parchment paper over the food—between the lid and glass container.
9. Ball Mason wide-mouth glass jars, 32 oz.; Ball Mason wide-mouth glass jars, 16 oz. I love wide mouth Ball mason jars! I use them as “pitchers” for my clean, filtered water and as food storage containers. They’re great for Mason Jar salads or for storing bone broth and soups. And because glass is naturally BPA-free, I never worry about synthetic chemicals leaching into my food.
10. Protein shake blender bottle. Whether you’re logging long hours at the office or always on-the-run, a protein shake blender bottle makes it easier for you to stabilize blood sugar—and get the nutrients you need.
11. 12-inch Stainless Steel Skillet with Lid. You can poach salmon and chicken in minutes with this versatile non-toxic skillet that can go from stovetop to oven. No plastic handles. No hormone-disrupting PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) or PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) chemicals.
12. Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven, 5-1/2 quart. A worthwhile splurge, this enameled cast iron Dutch oven is an excellent, high quality cookware staple that can last a lifetime (After 15 years, my two Le Creuset Dutch Ovens still look and work beautifully). It’s ideal for braising vegetables, roasting meets and slow-simmered soups and stews—a perfect kitchen tool, especially if you have digestive issues.
Healthy Food Shopping
I get it. Cooking meals at home and shopping for healthy foods can feel challenging when you’re time-pressed. The following online services can help you stay on the healthy eating track—and give you peace of mind:
Butcher Box. Get humanely raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free 100% grass-fed (and grass-finished) meat, including chicken, delivered straight to your door. A monthly subscription service. New members get $10 off + free bacon when you sign up here.
Thrive Market. From high quality protein powders and bone broth, to gluten-free pastas, olive oil and baby foods, Thrive Market is a one-stop shop for top organic, non-GMO and non-toxic brands. A $59.95 annual membership fee gives you up to 50% off on top organic brands. New members get 25% off + free shipping on your first order when you sign up here.
A few of my favorite pantry staples include:
Matcha Green Tea Powder (Organic), Ceremonial Grade. This vibrant green powder, made from finely ground tea leaves, is concentrated and delicious—like a green tea “espresso”! Rich in antioxidants, especially the cancer-fighting catechin EGCg, chlorophyll and polyphenols, matcha tea can help boost metabolism and immunity, as well as energy, focus and clarity.
Matcha Whisk Set. If you get into a matcha tea groove, this bamboo whisk set is a must. A regular whisk simply will not do. The bamboo whisk not only enhances the matcha tea-making ritual, but it also intensifies the flavor of every verdant sip.
Better than organic coffee…
Upgraded Bulletproof coffee (Whole Beans)
Chicken Bone Broth Protein Powder, Pure. Clean, easy-to-digest protein (dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free) that supports gut health and your immune system.
You cannot improve what you do not measure…!
Scale with Body Fat Monitor and Body Water: An excellent scale; I’ve had mine for 10 years, and it’s still going strong!
FitBit Flex: Sitting is the new smoking. Personally, this wearable changed my life. By raising awareness of how much movement you get in your day (even if you “go to the gym”), this activity tracker can help motivate you out of a sedentary rut.
Improve your sleep; and it’s highly likely that you will improve your overall health (and weight). Getting quality, restorative sleep is key. The following can help.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses. This evening eyewear can help protect you from sleep-disrupting blue light emitted by electronic devices, including your TV, computer, phone and other electronic screens.
Blackout Curtains. Even a little light can interfere with the quality of your sleep. Blackout curtains will keep your room very dark.
If your goal is to improve your health by preparing more home-cooked meals and/or making healthier food and lifestyle choices, the following supplements are an excellent complement.
Optimal Wellness Kit. Includes a highly bioavailable, drinkable multi-vitamin and B-Complex as well as a high-quality fish oil.
Activated B Complex. This is a highly bioavailable, drinkable B Complex—excellent if you have methylation issues; that is, unable to effectively metabolize B vitamins, like folate and B12.
Magnesium Bath Flakes. The majority of Americans are deficient in this calming mineral, vital for detoxification. Slip into a hot mag soak, ideal for alleviating stress and soothing achy muscles and joints; it can also have therapeutic effects for skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis.
Craving Cocoa. If your efforts to eat healthy get derailed by hunger and (strong) cravings, you’ll want to have Craving Cocoa in your arsenal. Organic cocoa powder is the star ingredient in this great-tasting, low-calorie all-natural supplement that helps boost mood, fight cravings (especially sugar cravings) and reduce hunger.
Happy shopping…and very best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
1 Public Health Nutrition: 18(8), 1397-1406
2, 3 International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: 2017, 14:109