Blog Banner

The Nutrition Nosh

Susan Glassman, Extension Educator, shares Nutrition and Wellness information and recipes to make life healthier!

Cooking Meals at Home!

According to Rutgers Cooperative Extension, over the past few decades, Americans have been eating out more and cooking at home less often. If you have lost the zeal for cooking meals at home, don't fret! Have fun in the kitchen again! As summer changes to fall, set a goal to get back into your kitchen. Start by cooking at home two to three times a week. You will automatically enjoy the health benefits of cooking at home. At home, you can monitor ingredients, make healthier choices, watch calories and portion sizes more easily.

Be successful by making a plan. Check to see what's in the cabinets and freezer. Experiment with some new healthier recipes. Look for ways to make your favorites by using low-fat or reduced-sugar products. For example, replace sour cream with low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Next time you are at the store, buy some new herbs and spices! Adding herbs and spices gives a burst of flavor instead of seasoning with salt or butter. Always have a fresh lemon on hand to substitute for salt.  Remember, zest and then squeeze, don't throw out any of that delicious flavor. Enjoy fresh dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage, and basil to accent meals, buy herb plants and keep them on your kitchen windowsill to snip and flavor as needed. Hint, frozen herbs make cooking fast and friendly and are in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Enjoy the possibilities of experimenting with whatever ingredients appeal to you.

Try these simple changes towards healthier eating:

1. Make vegetables the focus of the plate. Yes, make vegetables the main entrée!

  • Serve steamed, stir-fried or roasted vegetables along with a fresh side salad! Add seasonings like fresh grated lemon zest and pepper or fresh minced ginger, garlic, and cilantro. The combinations are endless when using herbs and spices.
  • For roasting vegetables, spray a baking tray lined with foil with cooking spray.  Place washed and cut vegetables into bite size portions in a single layer on the tray. Bake in the oven at 425°, approximately 20-30 minutes. You will enjoy the wonderful flavors that emerge from caramelized vegetables. Try roasting any of the following: mini peppers, carrots, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower and cabbage wedges. Make a mixture with lots of color for a delicious, healthy main entree.

2. Add low-fat protein as your side dish.

  • Choose lean or low-fat meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
  • Try meat alternatives like eggs, beans, nuts, and soy products.

3. Enjoy whole grains.

  • Look for whole grain foods like whole oats, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain corn, whole-grain brown rice.

4. Choose low-fat dairy.

  • Choose skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese too!
  • Try almond or soy milk as an alternative.  You can bake with unsweetened almond or soy milk, measuring cup for cup in recipes, just be careful not to use flavored milks in your recipes.

5. Don't' forget the fruit.

  • Adding fruit provides sweetness and depth of flavor. Try sautéed apples over pork chops, grilled peaches, pineapple added to salsa or strawberries in spinach salad. Enjoy the health benefits of the vitamins and fiber in fruit.

Quick and Easy Homemade Ranch Style Dressing with Fresh Dill (Printable PDF)

Serves 4


1/2 cup of plain low-fat plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup of buttermilk

1/4 cup light mayonnaise

1 T. lemon juice concentrate

1 T. fresh dill, minced

Dash sea salt

Dash course ground black pepper


1. Add dressing ingredients to a pint jar. Shake well.

2. Drizzle dressing over fresh vegetables or a salad mixture.

3. Season with black pepper, to taste.

Nutrition Facts per serving; 92 Calories, 7g Total Fat, 2g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 11mg Cholesterol, 140mg Sodium, 6g Carbohydrates, 0g Dietary Fiber, 2g Protein


Check out more online resources and tools at:

University of Illinois Extension, Nutriton and Wellness;

Choose MyPlate;

Have fun cooking!

University of Illinois • United States Department of Agriculture · Local Extension Councils Cooperating. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Please share this article with your friends!
Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter


Email will not display publicly, it is used only for validating comment