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Healthy Cooking Tricks

How learning to cook can help you resolve your issues with food.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

If you feel like you're losing the fight against food -- scarfing chips and cookies when you should be munching on carrots -- maybe it's time you learned the rules of healthy eating and healthy cooking. Learning to feel more comfortable in the kitchen can help you feel closer to your food -- and closer to a healthy lifestyle.

Diet Secret: Eat at home and learn healthy cooking tricks

Americans eat a lot of food they didn't cook themselves. While three-quarters of us eat most dinners at home, less than 60% of us prepare them in our own kitchens. In 2005, the trend of combining the convenience of take-out food with the comforts of home found each American buying an average of 57 restaurant meals to eat elsewhere, up from 33 meals 20 years ago. And when we do cook, we seldom cook from scratch. Last year, less than half of main meals prepared at home included even one fresh product, according to research from the NPD Group.

Why don't we cook more often? Many of us are just too busy--and too tired to face the kitchen after a long day of work. Others don't cook because they see food as the enemy, and are afraid they'll eat what they've made--maybe even all of what they've made, says therapist Karen R. Koenig, author of The Rules of "Normal" Eating and The Food and Feelings Workbook. Another cause for kitchen avoidance is the fear of making mistakes. According to Koenig, some people see the food they make as an extension of themselves, so they worry about being judged by the outcome. Ordering in takes a load of pressure off the perfectionist's back--you can blame a lousy dinner on the restaurant it came from, instead of on yourself.

Some of us hope that, by steering clear of the kitchen, we can keep the numbers on the scale from creeping slowly upwards. But when it comes to what we eat, ignorance is not bliss. And avoiding the issue won't keep us from getting fat. In fact, studies show that we're more apt to eat too much, too fast when we don't keep an eye on what goes into our mouths. And how can we make sure our meals are healthy and low-calorie if we don't know how they were prepared?

Learn healthy cooking tricks -- and resolve your food issues, too

One of the best ways to watch what you eat is to make it yourself.

"I love shortbread cookies," says Vicki Smythe, 26, a personal trainer. "But I had no idea how much butter was in them until I baked a few batches last week--an entire cup of butter in just 1 dozen cookies! I used to eat up to 4 or 5 cookies at a time, but now I'll definitely be stopping at 2!"

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