Cook at home for healthier lifestyle

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You're allergic to plump; it's not part of your vocabulary, and you're afraid your willpower is no match against the temptations that beckon from the fridge and cupboards.

So you end up dodging the kitchen like an ex-boyfriend.

That's the wrong tack, at least for certain groups, says a health expert.

If you're a single female head of a household and are between the ages of 31 to 50, cooking meals at home can actually help keep you svelte, says Jane M. Kolodinsky, professor of community development and applied economics at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Women who cook meals are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, says the researcher, who based her conclusions on an evaluation of groups with different food consumption and social habits, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Kolodinsky limited her search to one age and gender, which correspond to various nutrition guidelines.)

"Anecdotally, we've known that when you cook, you know what's going into your food," says Kolodinsky, who published her research (with Amanda B. Goldstein) in the journal Obesity.

Cooking may have other weight benefits, as well.

When you focus your attention into preparing a meal, you may be less likely to mindlessly snack on high-fat, high-sodium foods. Instead of reaching for the chips, you're saving your appetite for the wholesome dish you're preparing, Kolodinsky says.

Another surprising finding is that the more time you spend eating a meal, the more likely you are to be a healthy weight, according to the researcher.

Whether home cooks linger over dinner because it's especially tasty wasn't part of the study, but Kolodinsky argues that you should take the time to savor your food.

She also urges you to develop some basic culinary skills, if that's an obstacle.

When you learn to cook, you're learning about [nutritious] ingredients."

What's more, "easy, nutritious cooking does not have to take a lot of time," Kolodinsky says.

The following Greek-Style Shrimp and Vegetable Salad takes minutes to make, even if you're not a contestant on a chef reality show.

If you're not cooking at home, your best bet for weight management is dining in a full-service restaurant, Kolodinsky says.

When you eat in a full-service restaurant, you're aware that you had a meal, so you're not nibbling again at home. That doesn't register when you eat fast food, says the researcher.

Greek-Style Shrimp and Vegetable Salad

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup reduced-fat feta cheese

12 ounces large cooked, peeled shrimp

2 cups cooked whole-wheat penne, at room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup no-salt added tomato juice

Combine tomatoes, spinach, cheese, shrimp and penne in very large salad bowl. Toss gently but well. Stir together oil, vinegar, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and tomato juice in a cup. Pour over salad just before serving. Toss again.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving has: 180 calories; 4.5 grams total fat; 17 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 125 milligrams cholesterol; 707 milligrams sodium and 3.3 grams dietary fiber.

© CTW Features


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