Cooking for Self-Care

Gingerbread Muffins
Gingerbread Muffins – 1 Guiding Stars

The holidays have arrived. From Halloween through the new year, celebratory foods add stress and joy alike to our lives. If you’re the chief cook in your family, you may receive the fullest helping of stress around the holidays. Truthfully, though, no matter how many cookies we want to bake to send to family and friends, our own bodies manage stress better when they’re well-nourished. This month on Kitchen Smarts, we’ll focus on recipes and approaches to cooking that make good nutrition the obvious choice. Here are a few ideas to get you started

Smart Snacking

If the only easy snacks you have on hand are the cookies you’re busy baking, you’re going to eat more cookies. And if you eat more cookies, your body will be feeling the ups and downs of processing simple carbs. That can contribute to stress too. Do yourself a favor and stock the cupboard up with some quick-to-grab snacks that are high in fiber and offer a little protein and heart-healthy fat. If you can remember to grab your planned snacks instead of cookies while you’re busy around the house, you’ll feel a little better.

Tip: Baking with nuts? Unsalted nuts are an awesome snacking choice, so buy more than you need. Instead of snacking from the package, though, pour out a portion and take a moment to really enjoy eating them. This mindful approach to snacking will help you be intentional about how much you eat.

Quick Meals

A balanced meal does not need to be a time-intensive meal. Whether you pull out your slow cooker, dump a freezer meal onto a sheet pan, or make a smart meal out of nutritious snacks, speed and good nourishment can go hand-in-hand. Guiding Stars can also be a huge help in finding the most nutritious prepared foods in the aisles, the freezer case, and the deli section. Look for one, two, or three stars to indicate foods with good, better, and best nutrition.

Cheater Ingredients

“Cheater” ingredients are anything that speeds you along the path towards done in any recipe. For instance: instant brown rice. Why spend 45 minutes cooking rice on a busy night when you can spend 5 or 10? Similarly, frozen vegetables can be a huge time saver over washing and chopping fresh. This is another area where Guiding Stars can help you. Some of those convenient items are packed with additional sodium, sugar, or saturated fat: the stars make it easy to spot the ones that give you the same nutrition as cooking the whole food from scratch.