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Image: Courtesy Gyu-Kaku

Type A much? Some of us like what we like and know how to get it: by grilling, boiling or searing our own meals, even on nights out. Type Bs, too, will enjoy these dinner-and-a-show combos.

75 BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet

There’s more than one way to get exactly what you want here. For $25.99, a server slings free drinks, turns on your Korean-barbecue-style grill and refills your chile-dense hot pot until you’re bursting. Mix your own marinades at the sauce bar, or get meats already soaked for your dining pleasure. The near-infinite options range from multiple styles of noodles and tofu to frog legs and thin-sliced lamb. There’s even scoop-your-own ice cream at the end.

Flower Piggy Korean BBQ

Guests choose whether to cook over charcoal or gas grills, but either way, they’ll sample their way through some delicious marinated meat. Barbecue combos come with a staggering array of banchan, but also a bubbling steamed egg, corn cheese and a choice of soup. There are plenty of stews and rice dishes on the menu for those not seeking the thrill of the grill.

Fung’s Kitchen

This Houston staple is known for its dim sum, not its hot pot, but that’s due for a change. And in keeping with the chandelier-bedecked dining room, it’s fancy stuff: thinly sliced Berkshire pork served on a bed of cellophane noodles and twisty carrots. After the rich broth has seen its last piece of pork, finish off your meal by boiling up a pile of tender baby bok choy.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

We all know Korean barbecue, but this chain trades in the almost-as-covetable Japanese equivalent. The best time to visit is during during the day. Among the appealing lunch sets, we like the Samurai, whose marinated meats include miso hanger steak, sweet soy beef ribs and spicy pork belly, along with salad, soup and rice. Finish the experience with a $3 order of make-your-own s’mores.

The breadth of options at Flower Piggy

Image: Alice Levitt

Ka Sushi

A few of the city’s Japanese restaurants offer steak ready to cook on forbiddingly hot, flat volcanic rocks. We like the version here for its variety, which includes not only different grades of wagyu, but also humbler beef tongue, escolar and assorted mushrooms. For seafood fans, there are Hokkaido scallops, which, like the other proteins, are cooked in butter and enlivened by a pair of tangy dipping sauces.

Korea House

If you’re really hungry, tackle the all-you-can-eat barbecue at this Koreatown favorite—the main attraction here—but be warned: Customers are charged $5 per unfinished plate. Luckily, the offerings are good enough that you’ll likely conquer a sizable segment of the 28 meats, not to mention the banchan, kimchi pancakes, dumplings, soup and spicy rice cakes also included for $35.95.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

This Chinese-owned chain purports to serve “traditional Inner Mongolian hot pot cuisine” at locations all over the world. Diners can split their pot between mild bone broth dotted with goji berries and cardamom, and a fiery soup that burns with Szechuan peppercorns and chile oil. Mix-ins lean on lamb—including meatballs and wontons—and exotic veggies.

Saigon Pagolac

Bo 7 mon translates to “beef seven ways.” That means not only a treat for meat lovers, but that amateur chefs have a host of ways to flex their culinary muscles. The most fun of all the methods is “Vietnamese fajitas,” in which diners cook their beef in vinegar, fondue-style, for a tangy treat, then roll it in rice paper with a choice of fillings including bean sprouts, carrots and herbs.

Thai Spice Express

Hot pot can be a bit one-note, but not here. Among the three broths, tom yum is the sweet-and-sour stand-out. Diners also choose proteins, whether a meat-lovers’ featuring beef, pork and chicken, or one of the seafood-starring mixes crammed with shrimp and crab. Our favorite inclusion: raw eggs ready to be poached in your soup.

For the first week of the March Culinary Countdown, we looked into the benefits of cooking at home with dietitian Ben Atkinson, who manages Harborview Medical Center’s outpatient nutrition, informatics, and wellness programs in the Nutrition and Foodservices department.

1. Saves money

Eating homemade foods is usually much cheaper than eating at a restaurant or buying processed foods from the market.

Ben’s advice: “When we eat at a restaurant, we pay for not only the food, but also the costs of running that business. The lights, the water, the building, and the staff — in addition to the meal we are eating. The same goes for the pre-made or frozen meals at grocery stores.”

Here are some additional ways Ben suggests to save money:

  • Plan several days of meals. We’ll be less likely be tempted to eat something else if we have a plan or something already made.
  • Make a grocery list and stick to it to avoid buying extra food.
  • Save leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer. Once you get a stock of leftovers stored, you can reheat them at a later date when you don’t have time to cook.

2. Saves time

It might seem like grabbing something to eat at the local supermarket or driving to get take-out at the closest restaurant might be a quick solution when you’re in a hurry. In reality, many times it can be much faster to cook something at home, especially when you plan ahead. There are so many meals that can be made in less than 30 minutes. And if you choose a more complex recipe, you can always cook in bulk and eat the surplus later in the week or freeze it.

3. Healthier ingredients

Many commercially prepared foods are high in fat, salt, and sugar. When we prepare our own food, we know exactly which ingredients and how much of each are going into our food.

Ben’s advice: “When we cook at home, we are in control. McDonald’s fries have 19 ingredients. We can make them at home with far less — and they will taste just as good. A favorite at my house is potatoes cut into wedges, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Put these in a Ziploc bag to mix together. Then place in the oven on a pan for about 30 minutes at 400 F. It’s only five ingredients, and tastes fabulous.”

4. Avoid food allergies and sensitivities

Preparing your food at home can be especially beneficial if you or a family member has a food allergy. Because you are in control in your own kitchen, you can reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

5. Portion control

Many restaurants and fast food joints offer portions that are much larger than necessary. And the problem is, when food is in front of you, chances are you’ll eat it. When you dine in, you can regulate the amount of food served for dinner, eliminating unnecessary temptation.

6. Brings family together

Eating at home gives the entire family time to talk about their day.

Ben’s advice: “Studies show that when we eat together, our kids and family are much healthier. Eating together is linked to less obesity, kids doing better in school, and less substance abuse within the family.”

Involving your children in food preparation (maybe by asking them to read the recipe out loud or mix ingredients) is not only a fun thing to do, but also a great way to teach them healthy eating habits.

Thanks to Ben for filling us in on the benefits of cooking at home! Here are seven recipes that you could try this week…

Mini Frittatas with Spinach and Cheese

In Italy we normally eat frittata for lunch or dinner, but these would be equally delicious for breakfast. The great thing about these frittatas is that they can be made in advance; just reheat in the microwave or eat at room temperature for a quick and healthy go-to meal.

Ben’s advice: “You probably saw the recent scientific advice for the upcoming Dietary Guidelines 2015 revision—the one that said eggs weren’t bad for your health. Well, it’s true. Besides their great amount of protein, eggs have healthy omega-3 fats. They are also a nice source of Vitamin B12 for people who don’t eat meat. These frittatas are the rare breakfast menu item that contains large amounts of vegetables, too. Pair them with a slice of whole-grain toast or a piece of fresh fruit, and you’ve got a delicious and balanced meal.

Ingredients for 4 people:
Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, whites and tender green parts halved, thinly sliced, and washed well
1 lb. spinach, tough stems removed and rinsed well
6 eggs
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Coat 4 small baking dishes with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook leek until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out excess water.
  4. Lightly whisk eggs in a bowl. Stir in ricotta, Swiss cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, spinach mixture, salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon into baking dishes; bake about 20 minutes, or until eggs fluff up and top is lightly browned.

I love spinach, but feel free to experiment with your favorite ingredients.

Spaghetti al Pesto

This is my family’s pesto recipe. Why buy store-bought pesto when you can have superior results by making it yourself? Make a bigger batch during summer months when basil is in season and freeze it in small containers to have pesto year-round. It’s delicious on pasta, pizza, and sandwiches.

Ben’s advice: “Pasta often gets a bad rep, which is a shame. It’s relatively inexpensive and really versatile. It’s also a great source of energy for athletes. The problem that most of us have is making pasta our entire meal. Pair it with seasonal vegetables and a few slices of fruit, and you have an excellent and complete meal. Pesto has a lot of good nutrients. The combination of pine nuts and olive oil provide healthy fats to help you live a long and healthy life.”

Ingredients for 4 people:
1 lb. spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups basil leaves, packed
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Combine basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped.
  3. Add cheese and process until combined.
  4. While the food processor is on, add the olive oil in a stream, until fully incorporated and smooth.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Once the water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of water.
  7. Place pasta in a large bowl and incorporate pesto. If the consistency of the pesto is too thick, add some of the reserved cooking water. Toss well and serve immediately.

Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauce is so much tastier and healthier than its store-bought counterpart. Make a big batch of fresh tomato sauce — especially July through October when tomatoes are in season — and freeze. Gnocchi takes literally two minutes to cook and is perfect for days when you’re pressed for time.

Ben’s advice: “Homemade tomato sauce and freshly cooked pasta is an unbeatable combination. It’s also great for your health. Gnocchi is made from potatoes, which are a fantastic source of potassium, and one of the few ways to get Vitamin C in the winter from local produce. And many observational studies link reductions in cancer and heart disease occurrence with eating more tomatoes. When you cook tomatoes, you soften the cell walls inside the tomato, which allows you to get more of the beneficial nutrients into your body. Tomatoes and potatoes FTW (that’s ‘for the win’, for you kids out there!).”

Ingredients for 4 people:
2 lb. gnocchi
2 lb. fresh tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 or 6 basil leaves
Parmigiano Reggiano to taste

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
  2. With a knife, cut a shallow ‘x’ on the bottom of the tomatoes and once the water is boiling, plunge them in the hot water and let sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the skin starts peeling. Remove the tomatoes and rinse them quickly under running cold water. With a knife, peel away the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half, then cut around the crowns and remove them. Squeeze out the seeds and excess water. Chop the tomatoes.
  3. Heat the oil in a pot. Add garlic and brown. Add the tomatoes and a big pinch of salt. Cook for about 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated, turning with a wooden spoon a few times.
  4. In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add gnocchi. They are ready when they start floating on the surface, about 2 minutes.
  5. Drain gnocchi well and toss with tomato sauce. Add basil leaves, torn roughly with your hands. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano and serve.

Tuna with Beans Salad

This salad takes under 10 minutes to make and uses ingredients I usually keep in my pantry, so it’s perfect for those days when you have no time to plan! (Make sure you use tuna canned in olive oil instead of water.)

Ben’s advice: “We all know that tuna is great for our health, with its healthful omega-3 fats. But the beans in this recipe are also terrific for our bodies. They contain carbohydrates, fiber, and protein — so they’ll give you energy, improve your digestion, and help maintain your muscles. Plus, at about $1 per 16-ounce can, they are easy on your budget.”

Ingredients for 4 people:
2 cups canned cannellini beans, washed and drained
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
3 5-oz. cans of tuna in olive oil, drained

  1. Mix beans, onions, and olive oil in a shallow serving dish. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  2. Break the tuna into bite-sized pieces and add to beans. Add parsley, mix well, and serve.

Spinach Salad with Pears, Walnuts, and Gorgonzola

In Italy, we eat this salad as a side dish but it can very easily become a main dish when you add a couple slices of grilled bread or grilled chicken breast.

Ben’s advice: “Did you know that spinach is grown almost the entire year in Washington, and that our state produces most of the nation’s spinach seeds? That means that you’re regularly eating local spinach, fresh from the farm. Add some local pears from this salad, and you’ve got a great tasting, fresh salad waiting for you and your family.”

Ingredients for 4 people:
baby spinach
crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. To make the vinaigrette, pour olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well with a fork or whisk.
  2. Peel the pears and cut them into small cubes.
  3. Place spinach in big bowl and add cubed pears, walnuts, and crumbled Gorgonzola.
  4. Pour vinaigrette over the salad. Toss well and transfer to small individual plates.

Beef Strips over Arugula with cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

This is one of my favorite meat dishes. It is extremely easy to make, tastes great, and looks beautiful.

Ben’s advice: “This can be great as a lunch salad if you have leftovers, too. It’s visually appealing with the bright green arugula, brown and red steak, and deep red tomatoes. The great colors in this salad mean that it is a complete meal, containing many of the nutrients our bodies need to work and be active all day.”

Ingredients for 4 people:
1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak, cut crosswise into very thin slices
5 oz. arugula
shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 large shallots
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Arrange arugula on a platter.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook garlic until golden. Discard garlic and add meat to the pan at once. Add salt and pepper and toss with tongs to color evenly, for about 1 minute. Arrange steak over arugula. Add shallots and vinegar to the pan and cook for 1 minute on medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute, until the sauce has slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over steak, cover with shaved Parmigiano and serve immediately.

Light Eggplant Parmigiana

This much healthier version of traditional Parmigiana uses grilled instead of fried eggplant. The best way to enjoy Eggplant Parmigiana is to make it the day before, and let the flavors develop.

Ben’s advice: “The reason that many Italian dishes get a bad reputation is because of their large amount of carbohydrates or cheese. But remember, this should not be the only item on your plate. It is perfectly healthful as part of your meal. There are really no empty calories (food that has no nutritional benefit) in this recipe. The cheese is a great source of calcium and protein; the eggplant, tomatoes, and other vegetables provide us with huge amounts of vitamins and minerals and fiber; and the olive oil is notably great for us. Pair this dish with a large handful of fresh green beans sautéed in the same pan, or a few slices of Washington-grown apples, and your meal will be healthier than anybody else’s in town.”

Ingredients for 4 people:
3 lb. eggplants
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 8 oz. mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
basil leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise, into ¼-inch slices. Layer the slices in a large colander and sprinkle each layer with salt. Cover the eggplant slices with a small plate and weigh them down by placing something heavy, like a can of tomatoes, on the plate. Let the eggplant rest for at least 1 hour, so that it can expel its bitter juice. Rinse under running water and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. While the eggplant is draining, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan, brown the garlic cloves, and add the tomatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven at 350°F. Place the eggplant slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.
  4. Spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13×8-inch baking dish. Arrange the slices of eggplant in 1 layer over the sauce. Top with a few more tablespoons of sauce, some mozzarella and some Parmigiano. Sprinkle a few basil leaves on top. Continue layering until you run out of eggplant and top the last layer of eggplant with sauce and Parmigiano.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the top is slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I hope you enjoy cooking more often this week. Share pics of these meals or your own recipes in the private Eating Well group for a chance to win a Whole U apron!

Chiara Iacoviello is a marketing and events consultant for The Whole U and a former culinary business owner and chef at the Andretti Winery in Napa, California. She’s a native of Italy who learned to cook authentic Italian cuisine from her parents and grandparents.

Ben Atkinson is a dietitian at Harborview Medical Center, where he manages the outpatient nutrition, informatics, and wellness programs in the Nutrition and Foodservices department. He enjoys riding his bike with his family, learning New Jack Swing dance with his kids, and polishing his dress shoes.

Experience a New Way of Dining With These Cook Your Own Food Restaurants

by Marcus Cagle Aug 26th, 2015

Where we once wanted decent service and a phenomenal meal away from home, consumers and foodies alike are both veering toward a different type of unique dining experience. Now, instead of food and service being at or near the top of the list for your next night out, diners are digging into the experiential side of dining. From mystery meal cafes to laboratory restaurants featuring food right out of the movie Weird Science and even eating in the dark, the experiential is the new marker of excellence for what constitutes a hip or trendy restaurant.

Amongst these hip and trendy new experiential offerings are the “cook your own meal” restaurants that are springing up all over the East and West Coast (and many place between). We’ve come full circle in the dining world.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the most popular cook your own food restaurants in America.

Cook Your Own Food Restaurants

Hanjoo (Queens, NYC)

Photo: Food and Culture in NYC

New York is home to dozens of restaurants that allow you to cook your own food. One of the most popular is the Flushing, Queens darling, Hanjoo.

Hanjoo offers an extensive menu, but if you’re like the rest of us, you’re only interested in one thing – the pork. At Hanjoo the pork combination platter features a quartz slab that is erected right at your table and heated by a gas burner. The server will then bring you a plate of pork and instruct you to drop the sliced pork, slice-by-slice, into the hot crystal while watching it sizzle – and smelling that delicious aroma.

Once the fat drips down to the bottom (and covers the delicious kimchi), the pork is done, and it’s typically eaten a slice at a time before throwing on the next batch. It’s a truly amazing experience, and although it might be pricy, one combo platter is easily enough for two once you factor in the veggies, it’s not so terrible.

Be sure to check out the newer East Village location as well.

Dave’s BBQ & Grill (East Hollywood, Los Angeles)

Photo: Yelp

Flipping to the other coast, Dave’s BBQ & Grill offers another highly rated experiential dining restaurant. The food is sort of a BBQ meats Asian fusion sort of cuisine, and features a sort of no-frills atmosphere where the food is certainly the star.

While the ambiance is basic, Dave’s gets high marks for both the service, and the food.

Dave’s allows you to choose from a variety of meats (for $2.99 each) as well as veggies in order to cook in a sort of hot pot right on your table. If you’re new to hot pot cooking, the delightful servers – or even Dave himself – is right there to assist you. Basically, you’ll be choosing from meat or seafood options, cooking it in the hot pot in front of you, and noshing on some delicious meat and veggies as well as the complimentary soup and rice. As far as eating goes, you can enjoy the meat and veggies on their own, or add them to the rice, soup, or a combination of the above. The meal is yours to do what you want with.

If the meat is the star of the show, the sauces are easily the best supporting actor. Try the fish balls, garlic shrimp, chicken or pork!

The Melting Pot

Photo: FSR Magazine

Since you can’t find cook your own food restaurants everywhere, I wanted to include The Melting Pot because it’s a chain and has locations nationwide.

The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant that allows you to cook your meat or vegetables at your table in a pot of broth or boiling water before dipping them in delicious sauces or cheeses. Veggie options are fairly standard (carrots, broccoli, etc.), and you’ll get to choose from your favorite “style” of cuisine upon which they’ll bring you additional fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, and broths in which to dip.

For dessert, the fruit and chocolate dip is a show stealer, and although it’s simple in nature, the entire unique dining experience is one that’s fun, affordable, and great for groups.

Header: Orlando Limo Ride

Cooking For Weight Loss

There’s usually no single cause for being overweight or obese, and there’s no single solution either. But there are some simple steps you can take that will gradually shed pounds in a healthy way. (Hint: To weigh less, cook more!)

Home cooking puts you in control of what goes into your food and your body.

Here are some guidelines to get you into the kitchen and cooking healthy!

  • Put vegetables at the top of your shopping list and plan your meals around them instead of what kind of meat you’re going to prepare. Formula: more veggies; less meat. Beans are a vegetable, so have tacos with beans instead of hamburger, and add plenty of freshly chopped salsa, tomatoes and lettuce. The same goes for your lunch. Make sandwiches with less meat, and pile on the veggies. Go beyond lettuce and tomato! Add cucumbers, sprouts, spinach and sweet bell pepper strips. Hold the mayo, or use the low-fat or fat free kind.
  • Skip the sugary stuff. Sugar has calories, but no other nutritional value. Some sugar occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk and grains. One culprit in undermining weight loss is often “added sugar”—the kind added to food and drinks during processing, as well as the obvious sugar bowl on the table. If you’re cooking at home, you probably won’t be adding sugar to your minestrone soup, but manufacturers might. Rethink your drink.
  • Eat it all. You read that right, for wheat that is. Choose breads, crackers and cereals made from whole grains, which contain all the parts of the grain. Refined grains are stripped of their healthy outer coat (bran), which lowers some of the nutrients in the grain. And eating whole food fills you up, not out—a real boon for your weight loss efforts. Brown rice is a whole grain; white rice is not. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content. It’s better to eat an apple than to drink apple juice.

Article copyright © 2016 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit
Last reviewed 1/2015

How Cooking at Home Can Help You Lose Weight


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It’s easier than ever not to cook at home: Takeout, pickup, and a slew of food-delivery apps make no-cook eating as easy as tapping a few buttons on your phone.

But that convenience can come at a high caloric cost. One simple — and usually less expensive — way to keep those extra calories from heading for your waistline? Cook at home.

Science backs it up, too: A 2014 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that people who eat more meals at home consume about 200 fewer calories at meals than those who eat out on the regular.

Find why firing up the stove can help you lose weight, and tips to make cooking at home easy and doable.

Why Cooking at Home Can Help You Lose Weight

It’s not good enough to just eat at home, though — you have to make those meals, too. And remember: Just because you cooked something at home doesn’t automatically make it healthy. (Sorry, but those “homemade” double-chocolate fudge brownies don’t count.)

But if you stick with healthy recipes, then you’re definitely giving yourself the home advantage. “The bottom line is that eating at home is healthier for you because it gives you so much more control,” says Meg Hagar, MS, RD, and author of Little Book of Kitchen Wonders.

You know exactly how much salt or fat or sugar is going into your dish; you also have the power to swap ingredients in (and out) to fit your nutritional and caloric goals.

And eating healthy at home doesn’t have to cost more: A study from researchers at the University of Washington found that home-cooked dinners were not only lower in fat, calories, and sugar, but total dollars spent on food as well. The study also found that people who eat at home are more likely to meet U.S. government guidelines for a healthy diet.

The control you get with cooking at home extends to other facets of your health as well: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million Americans get sick from food-borne illness each year.

Of course, food poisoning can happen anywhere, but when you’re preparing meals at home, you know exactly how food is being handled — and how clean the kitchen is.

Master the Art of Meal Prep

One of the biggest reasons people eat out is for convenience. But that convenience comes at a hefty price: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend about $3,000 a year eating out.

We get it: It’s easier to just pick something from a menu versus shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning, especially if you’re crazy busy. But if you arm yourself with some smart shopping tips and time-saving meal plans, you can lose pounds and save some cold, hard cash.

“I’m a huge believer in batch cooking, or preparing multiple servings of a meal all at once,” says Hagar. “The best part is that I only have to cook a few times a week and I get to eat my own homemade meals all week!”

Sounds easy, but the reality of it can be overwhelming. Start slow, like cooking three dinners at home one week. Then, the following week, add two home-cooked breakfasts.

Keep building each subsequent week until it becomes a habit to cook at home, instead of eating out. You never know. You might surprise yourself and actually start to enjoy (and look forward to) cooking at home.

How Do I Prepare Meals to Lose Weight?

Restaurants use everything from color to music to influence what you eat — and how much you spend — at their establishments. Follow their lead by creating an environment at home that supports healthy eating habits:

  • Put your meal on a plate before you sit down to eat; no eating out of bags or boxes of food.
  • Keep healthy foods like veggies, fruits, and nuts easily accessible and tuck the less healthy temptations in the pantry or cupboards.
  • Put away all electronics. This will allow you to be more mindful of what you’re eating and how much. “At home, you can turn off distractions while eating, allowing you to really tune into our hunger signals and avoid overeating, ” says Hagar.
  • Make sure you’re eating a balanced meal. “Load up on veggies and lean proteins plus a small amount of complex carbohydrates to make your plate look more full of food,” she advises.

How to Eat Healthy While Eating Out

While we’re definitely fans of eating at home, that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit who never enjoys a meal out.

With a few tips and tricks in your back pocket, you can stay on track and eat out with friends and family with zero guilt:

  • Scope out the menu online beforehand to see which meals will fit your goals. Major chain restaurants are required to list calorie counts and other nutritional info, making the search for the right dish a lot easier.
  • on the menu: Stay away from foods that are described as “crispy,” “pan-fried,” “buttered,” or “stuffed,” and stick with healthier preparations like “broiled,” “baked,” or “steamed.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, or for dressings and sauces on the side — or not at all.

And don’t beat yourself up if you eat out more than you plan to. Just roll with the punches and know that making the switch to healthy cooking and eating, like with any new habit, takes time to master.


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3 Reasons to Cook Your Own Meals

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” The human body is made of trillions of cells involved in a continuous cycle of cell death and rebirth. Although genetics plays a large role in susceptibility to disease, you have an opportunity each and every day to feed your cells with vital life energy from the food you eat. The food you take in quite literally becomes the building blocks of your physical self.

These days, there is no shortage of fuel options. You can buy frozen meals, eat out at a nice restaurant, or grab something on the fly through a drive-through. With pre-packaged and dining-out options become increasingly inexpensive, it can be difficult to remember why you might ever choose to spend time in your kitchen!

The following are three benefits to choose to cook at home.

1. Higher Quality Ingredients

Cooking fats

Cooking your own food enables you to be involved in every step of the ingredient-selection process. Pre-packaged and restaurant foods are typically prepared using inexpensive and low-grade salad oils, such as soybean or vegetable oil. These types of oils promote inflammation.

Most home-cooked recipes, however, feature ghee, butter, coconut, or olive oil. By cooking your own food, you control the type of fats you consume; therefore, you can optimize your diet to prevent inflammation.

Real-food spices and seasonings

At home, you are in complete control over the spices used during the cooking process.

You may add less salt, opting instead for fresh or dried herbs. Herbs are medicinal plants. Rich in polyphenols (beneficial plant components), they deliver antioxidants to your body while helping your meals taste complex and satisfying.

Pre-packaged foods often contain fewer fresh or dried herbs, yet higher levels of salt. They also often contain isolated monosodium glutamate (MSG), a lab-created, powdered flavor enhancer, which has been linked with symptoms of intolerance in many individuals.

By cooking at home, you can limit your fuel to only real-food, whole ingredients.

2. Cooking as a Mindfulness-Based Practice

Western society has moved toward a culture of “hurry up to slow down.” You buy your food pre-made and eat it on the go, then slide into yoga class for an hour to slow down.

While yoga and meditation are healthy routine practices, you can work mindfulness into every aspect of your live—starting with meal preparation.

You can practice awareness through every step of the cooking process:

  • Notice the colors of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store
  • Savor the aroma of onions and garlic simmering in olive oil
  • Pay close attention to the sounds of cooking: a boiling pot, peeling potatoes, dicing vegetables, or searing meat. All food prep stages have distinct sounds.
  • Try to identify each of the six Ayurvedic tastes within your meal: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. If you notice a flavor, shift your attention to the part of your mouth or tongue that senses that flavor the most distinctly.

3. Cooking for Connection

Food connects people—it gets you talking, lets you show your love or support for friends in need, and helps add to feelings of comfort and well-being. When a loved one is ill, you show your concern by cooking a pot of soup. When you celebrate a birthday, you bake a cake. Food is connection, comfort, and celebration that connects us all.

Cooking with children is important not only for creating memories, but also for their health.

Fewer Behavioral Problems in Children

Research conducted by the American Medical Association found that adolescents who had family meals seven times weekly, compared to those who reportedly had family meals two times or less per week:

  • Were less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana
  • Had higher grade point averages
  • Had lower depressive symptoms
  • Were less likely to attempt suicide

Establish a Foundation of Food Variety

As you know, eating habits are formed in childhood and are difficult to change as an adult. Research shows that children who eat meals at home are more likely to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as drink fewer soft drinks. Furthermore, children who are engaged in the cooking process are more likely to grow to be adults who feel comfortable cooking for themselves and loved ones.

Undeniably, cooking does take time. However, by focusing on whole food ingredients, staying mindful throughout, and involving your friends or family in the process, you can change the process from seemingly time-consuming to time-fulfilling.

Bon appétit!

Learn easy-to-implement health and wellness practices to create lasting change at Perfect Health, our total mind-body healing experience. Learn More.

6 Reasons To Cook Your Own Food

Eating fresh home-cooked meals allows you to make healthier choices, spend less and keep up a healthy lifestyle. While eating out is convenient and sometimes inevitable, be sure not to make it a habit. Grabbing a bagel on the go, going to a work lunch or ordering take out after a busy day is ok sometimes but I highly recommend cooking most of your meals at home. I assure you that by cooking your own food, you will feed your body with the best ingredients possible, which will make you feel healthier, more energized and lighter.

This doesn’t mean you need to stay home and cook every night, but it does mean that you need to be prepared. You can do that by going to the grocery store on a Sunday and shopping ahead for the week. Get loads of veggies, fruits, whole grains and proteins. Cut up carrots, peppers, celery and separate them in individual zip-lock bags. This can be one of your snacks on the go. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell really yummy cooked lentils, beets and edamame that are ready to eat. You can throw that into any salad and you got yourself a well-balanced meal. Bottom line is that when your fridge is stocked, you won’t opt out for delivery. The better cooks we are, the richer and more varied our diets can be. Don’t give up if your roasted chicken doesn’t turn out as juicy as you had in mind. Appreciate yourself for trying your best and notice how you can improve the recipe next time. Practice makes perfect! Below you can find six reasons why preparing food at home is a priority for me.

Portion control

Most restaurants serve an overly abundant amount of food that is usually double or triple the standard portion size. This is a major influence of obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Eating at home allows you to be in control of the amount of food you put on your family’s plates. Being mindful is the key to overcoming this issue.

Fewer calories

When we prepare our own food, we know exactly how much olive oil or butter we put into it. Many restaurants use a ton of low quality butter, cream, and sauces in order to make food more flavorful. Have you ever had a stir-fry that tastes like it is drenched in oil and fat? I certainly have. When you cook at home, this won’t be an issue. Try sautéing in vegetable or chicken broth. Add a little bit of sea salt, fresh lemon juice, lime zest, fresh herbs & spices and you will see how these little changes will improve quality and taste of your food.

Know your ingredients

There are many undisclosed ingredients and additives in meals prepared outside. Partially hydrogenated oils, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate, and artificial sweeteners are some of these additives that you can encounter by not cooking your own food. Eating out can leave you feeling bloated and puffy due to all of the unnecessary sodium and sugars added to the food. When you cook at home, you are in full control of the ingredients and will have a smaller chance of suffering from an auto-immune diseases caused by many of these unsafe artificial ingredients.

Budget friendly

Shop seasonally, buy in bulk, and take advantage of sales. By cooking at home, you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers so you have healthy, convenient, and ready-to-go meals on hand! Just by bringing your own lunch to work twice a week, you can save around 25$/week. This can easily add up to up to $100 a month and a whopping $1,200 per year!

Bring the family together

Cooking with your little ones can teach them a lot more than just food and can benefit the wellbeing of the entire family. Children are more likely to experiment and try different foods when they are involved. It will be fun for everyone! ☺

Fights off cravings

Taking the time to plan and prepare your meals at home not only saves you time and money, but will give your body the necessary vitamins and minerals that it needs. By eating well balanced meals with protein, healthy carbs and fats, you will feel satisfied and no longer reach for the mid-day pick me up sugary can of coke or bag of cookies.

It’s true that cooking takes time, but family meals don’t always have to be long or complicated. It’s easy to prepare a large salad with a side of protein, roasted veggies with an omelet, lettuce tacos, or a veggie stir-fry with quinoa that will take you only a couple of minutes. I’d love to hear what you like preparing at home and ask that you share any of your health concerns with me, I am happy to help.

The Georgia Dining Experience That Lets You Cook Your Own Food Right At The Table

Chances are, if you weren’t looking for this hidden gem located deep inside a shopping plaza, you probably wouldn’t find it. As soon as you walk into GogiYa, you can hear the sizzling of beef from all throughout the room. This one-of-a-king dining experience in Georgia is unlike any others around, however, it is a food trend that is seemingly sweeping the nation. The way it works at GogiYa in Suwanee is that visitors are able to order a plethora of food from the menu—meats, sides, vegetables, rice—you name it, they probably have it. A lot of people tend to stick to various meat options, since they end up cooking so perfectly on the center grill. Smack dab in the center of the table is a grill which gets piping hot, and a grate in order for guests to cook their food right at the table. Imagine grilling up a combo plate of prime rib, filet mignon, pork ribs, and beef brisket all in one shot. Of course there are other delicacies too, like the deep fried dumplings, assorted vegetables, and noodles, which come already cooked. If you’ve never experienced Korean BBQ before, or you’ve never been able to enjoy cooking your own food at a restaurant, then this is your chance. We hope that you arrive hungry, but this all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ Spot will have you coming back for more every time.

Cook on your own

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