Redefining Fast Food
As a wellness researcher and writer, as well as an eating disorder and obesity healer, I see it all when it comes to lifestyle issues. But the saddest thing I encounter is the absolute inability or unwillingness to cook on the part of many, if not most Americans. When I try to paint a picture for recovery that begins with eating at home (i.e. cooking) by using whole foods that are organic, grass-fed, wild-caught, and naturally sweet and delicious, as well as rich in vitamins and minerals, my patients eyes glaze over.
In this article, I am offering my secrets for meals in minutes that are both mouth-watering and quick. I rarely spend more than 10 minutes making my dinner and even less time making breakfast and lunch.
Over the years I have become accustomed to the push back that I get when I encourage patients to eat at home and actually cook the food. After researching this issue, I discovered that this is a problem that is common for most Americans and not just those with disordered eating. In general people believe that cooking is too hard and takes too long. It seems to be a part of our culture and it appears to be getting worse instead of better.
In an article by Eddie Yoon,  in the Harvard Business Review, he writes:
Early in my career I gathered some data for a client on cooking. This research found that consumers fell into one of three groups: (1) people who love to cook, and cook often (15%), (2) people who hate to cook, and avoid that activity by heating up convenience foods, ordering out, or dining in restaurants (50%), and, finally, (3) people who like to cook sometimes, but also order out (35%.)
Nearly 15 years later I did a similar study for a different client. This time, the numbers had shifted: Only 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.
No wonder people are generally not buying what I am selling on the whole cooking and eating at home issue. According to this research, 90% of all consumers would rather not cook and half of that group hates to cook! That leaves only 10% of us who enjoy cooking.
Assuming that these stats are accurate, then what is this obsession people have with the food channels? As much as people seem to hate cooking, they seem to love watching people who are cooking. Vicarious much?
My strongest argument for cooking at home is how much healthier the food is and how much less fattening it is. This is assuming that you cook with clean ingredients. One of the most common objections I get when it comes to preparing clean home-cooked meals, is that it is too expensive to buy organic, grass-fed, wild-caught, whole foods. Bull roar. It is more expensive to eat out than it is to eat at home, even when you go the organic route at home.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend more than half of their food budget, 53.8 percent, on eating out. That is not because they are eating out more, it is because it is becoming more and more expensive to eat out.
Here is a chart on how much more people spend eating away from home than at home in the U.S. compared to 60 years ago.
It is very different in Europe.
Ok, so what’s a person to do? Here are my tips for making delicious meals in 10 minutes.
1. Be prepared. The secret to making quick meals is to have something to cook. Duh, right? You would be surprised how many people have nothing in their freezers but ice cream, pizza and ice cubes. When I try to problem solve with patients who have binged, it is almost always because they did not have a “meal” option but did have binge foods such as cereal, pasta and pizza readily available. In other words, they do not buy meats and fish, which can be thrown in the freezer next to some frozen vegetables.
2. If cost is an issue, try buying in bulk. Join a buying club. But always have grass-fed, organic frozen beef, chicken, fish and veggies available in your freezer.
3. Plan to eat. This will require you to thaw something out in the morning or at noon, so that you are ready to throw it in the frying pan for 6 or 7 minutes for your evening meal. I make enough for more than one night. So I will bake 2 large chicken breasts. One I will eat the first night. The second I will dice up and use in chicken soup or in chicken salad. Or I may heat up the second one for another quick meal.
4. Although the chicken takes an hour to bake, it only takes 4 minutes to prep. Preheat over to 350, take it out of package, rinse it off, dry it off, put parchment paper in an oven dish (no scrubbing) put spices on both sides and sea salt, bake for 30-45 minutes, or until juices run clear. Five minutes before it is done, put your frozen vegetables in the microwave or cook them on top of stove. I take the skin off of the chicken, give it to Moli the dog, or keep it for making chicken broth. I often put a little of my famous barbecue sauce on the chicken and pop it under the broiler for a minute.
5. Shop regularly enough to have some fresh produce on hand as well. But only buy what you will eat that week. Maybe a head of lettuce, a cucumber, an onion, a tomato and a couple of pieces of fruit, depending upon what you have in the freezer for your main course 🙂
6. If you eat dairy, keep cottage cheese on hand. It makes a delicious lunch when you eat it with an orange, pineapple or even a hard-boiled egg.
7. I also keep homemade humus on hand as this is another very quick lunch option, a few organic Keto crackers or some carrot/cucumber/celery slices and some homemade humus….perfection!
8. Get busy on the weekends. I buy the groceries on Fridays or Saturdays after I finish with patients. I make my sauces and dressings on the weekends. I keep them very simple, usually only 4 or 5 ingredients. I make enough to last at least a week. I usually make a barbecue sauce, a creamy avocado dressing and/or a curry sauce.
9. Try to make one big thing each weekend. Last weekend I made chicken noodle soup that was to die for. Although it took a whole 18 minutes to throw together in the pot, it was three meals of heavenly broth on top of Miracle Noodles.
This weekend I made chili for the kids and grandkids to celebrate Halloween. We ate it before going trick or treating. Other weekend dishes I make are meatloaf, a purple cabbage salad or an egg/chicken salad. All of these take a little more than the 10 minutes to make but then I only have to heat them up or pull them out of the refrigerator for lunch or dinner during the week. This reduces my meal prep time on weeknights when I’m tired to less than 10 minutes
10. For salads, prep ahead and keep in a salad crisper. The greens will last most of the week.
11. It only takes 6 to 8 minutes to fry a hamburger, fish, lamb chop or pork chop. While you are frying or broiling, you can microwave, steam or boil your vegetable. Done in 10!
I’m going to be doing a series of 10 minute meals and all of my best clean eating, snacking and meal prep recipes, so stay tuned! Clean eating is something ANYONE can do! But like anything else worth doing it takes effort and planning. It is my mission to make it easier to understand the many ways of incorporating healthier food choices into your life!
If you need further help in reaching your health goals, please reach out to Norton Wellness Institute at 513-205-6543 today!
Does someone you love suffer from an eating disorder?
Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.
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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances. Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider. You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.