Eye on Extension: Eat at home

VALLEY — When it comes to cooking, more and more Americans are opting for convenience. 

According to a report from an international marketing information company, the following changes in eating patterns have occurred in the past 20 years in America:

* 32 meals per person are purchased at a restaurant and eaten in the car

* 92 percent of take-out lunches come from fast-food restaurants

* 92 percent of individuals consume some form of ready-to-eat foods in the home on a daily basis

Today’s consumer has chosen to eat out, take out and drive thru often for reasons linked to time and money. In our rush to get from here to there and fit in a meal, the unfortunate truth is that health too often is compromised. Making a mad dash through the supermarket’s frozen food aisle isn’t the best solution either. Typically, convenience foods purchased as fast food or from the supermarket are high in salt, added sugar and fat, but low in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Interestingly, many real estate articles on selling a home indicate that, of all rooms in the home, the kitchen is the most important. Considered the heart of the home, kitchens see a lot of activity.  In addition to the socialization that happens there, why not make it a functional room and prepare healthful meals for you and your family instead of eating food away from home? The immediate nutrition benefits are:

* To increase the amount of fiber and nutrient-rich ingredients

* To limit the amount of added sugar and salt

* To adjust portion size to meet actual caloric needs

Perhaps the best place to start is to get more organized to create more time. 

Why not give the following ideas a try?

Try cooking in bulk - Set aside a convenient time for relaxed cooking, perhaps during the weekend or on a weekday evening. Double or triple a recipe. When cooked, divide the finished item into individual serving-sized portions and freeze them. When time or energy for cooking is limited, defrost the right number of portions in the microwave, heat and serve.

Try a special meal night – For example, homemade pizza night. This is fun because everyone can pitch in. Even little hands can sprinkle the cheese over the top. Choose healthy toppings like Canadian bacon instead of pepperoni, and pile on the vegetables.

These ideas are fairly simple, but you do have to plan ahead. Why not get that pencil and paper out now and start planning?

For more information contact Mary Ellen Fleming at 852-7381, or visit the CSU Extension Office for the San Luis Valley Area at 1899 E. Hwy 160 in Monte Vista.  Please feel free to visit our website at:  http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu for information about services provided.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Counties cooperating.