Tonight, mom and dad are going out. You’ve got the place to yourself which is great, until dinner time rolls around. Getting into the kitchen and figuring out a healthy (and delicious) meal that you can cook for yourself can be intimidating, but it’s a helpful skill to learn as you gain some independence. Ditch the Kraft Dinner or leftover pizza and keep in mind a few of these tips.
Pay Attention to Hunger (and Fullness)
We all tend to lead busy lives, and as a teenager, this is likely the case for you too. Part of the pressure you might face day to day surrounds food and body image. Did you know that by listening to your body’s natural signals, you can actually live and look very healthy without any complicated, restrictive diets?
Paying attention when your body is hungry by eating well will help you to avoid eating too much. Similarly, learning to slow down when you eat and recognize when you’re full is a great way to avoid overeating or feeling bloated or guilty. It may sound almost too simple to be true, but it really works. Start small by noticing when you’re hungry and when you’re full and respond to those natural instincts.
Separate Feelings From Food
When you’re feeling sad, do you find yourself eating something sweet? Or when you’re bored, do you eat for entertainment? While practices like this aren’t uncommon, they can lead to an unhealthy habit of using eating as a coping mechanism. Instead, try to separate how you feel from why and when you eat and learn how to respect and manage these emotions without using food.
Cook With Colour
Some people refer to cooking as an art which can be a fun way to approach an otherwise intimidating task. One bonus benefit is that by cooking with colour, you’re not just making a meal that looks great, but one that is filled with a variety of vitamins and nutrients too! So try it out: aim to have at least three different colours on your plate and you’ll be amazed at how healthy you feel.
Keep it Simple
With all of these things in mind, cooking a meal for yourself can still feel like a huge task. It doesn’t have to be though, and there are many simple recipes you can try to build up your confidence. Ask your parents to teach you some of your favorite dishes or to let you cook your own meals from time to time. For some practice in the kitchen, try out a few of these easy, healthy dishes:
- Quesadillas: Fill it with chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes – whatever you have in your fridge!
- Tuna and Veggie Wraps: Great for lunch or dinner. You can also substitute tuna for canned chicken, ham or salmon.
- Pasta with Fresh, No-Cook Tomato Sauce: A quick, fresh spin on a classic meal.
- Yogurt Parfait: Great for breakfast or a snack. No cooking required.