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Wilburn: A little planning can go a long way in the kitchen
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When it comes to cooking and preparing meals, more and more Americans are opting for convenience. Americans spend 47 percent of their food budget away from home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Additionally, a report from an international marketing information company that provides insight into consumer purchasing and behavior showed changes in the last 20 years in Americas’ eating patterns:

32 meals per person are purchased at a restaurant and eaten in the car

92 percent of take-out lunches come from fast-food restaurants

92 percent of individuals consume some form of ready-to-eat foods in the home on a daily basis

Today’s consumer has chosen to eat out, buy take-out and from the drive-through for reasons linked to time and money. In our rush to get from here to there and fit in a meal, the unfortunate truth is that health too often is compromised.

Making a mad dash through the supermarket’s frozen food aisle isn’t the best solution, either. Typically, convenience foods purchased as fast food or from the supermarket are high in salt and added sugar and fat but low in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Interestingly, many real estate articles on selling a home indicate that, of all rooms in the home, the kitchen is the most important.

Considered the heart of the home, kitchens see a lot of activity. In addition to the socialization that happens there, why not also make it a functional room and prepare healthful meals there for you and your family instead of eating food away from home?

The immediate nutritional benefits?

Increase the amount of fiber and nutrient-rich ingredients

Control the type and quantity of fat used

Limit the amount of added sugar and salt

Adjust portion size to meet actual caloric needs

Perhaps the best place to start is to get more organized to create more time. Use your fully functional kitchen equipped with a stovetop, oven, refrigerator, freezer and microwave.

In the box are guidelines to help you cook more fresh meals at home. All of these ideas are simple as can be, but you do have to plan ahead. Why not get that pencil and paper out now and start planning?

Source: Colorado State University Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension Service. Contact: 770-535-8290.