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Let's cook more, and eat out less

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Editor's note: This column is one in a series as three RiverTown Multimedia reporters take part in the Slim Down with RiverTown weightloss challenge.

My family has always loved eating out. We make it a priority to eat out often when we're together and so when my sister was visiting a few weeks ago we did what we always do. We ate out.

That night's menu included pastas, meat and one other surprising addition. My sister ordered a seafood dish paired with some mushrooms.

David ClareyMushrooms?

Neither of us had ever enjoyed mushrooms, but when it arrived she gushed over how good it tasted. She even told our waitress that fact, and the waitress smiled nicely back at her before leaving what has become the most memorable quote of the night.

READ MORE: Slim Down With RiverTown

"Everything is good when cooked with enough butter, right?"

And look, I know there's been a changing of thinking around fats lately in diets, but it had to be a lot of butter to make mushrooms taste good. Also don't get me wrong, butter is delicious, but I don't need to tell you that too much of something is never a good thing.

Here's the other part of it, too, eating out regularly is not a healthy way to live. Numerous studies have shown that eating out is bad for you. You get more food than you need and so you eat more than you need. Along with that comes more stuff you don't always want—sugars, unhealthy fats, etc.

In college, I didn't use planners until I started working at my college newspaper and was forced to be someone who plans. Luckily though, I was able to squeeze extra time for friends and other things by skipping out on cooking. Instead of cooking, I ate out in place of at least one meal a day.

I tried my best to avoid fried, greasy things, but, hey, sometimes I wanted a burger and I wanted to follow that up with fried chicken the next day. It's a habit that carried with me until I started working full time and tracking my finances better.

I realized not only how much I was spending on eating out, but also how often. So lately in the first few weeks of Slim Down with Rivertown I've tried to start planning out my meals for every day of the week.

I pick five to seven meals (depending on how much I prepare for each) to make for each day of the week. I always make sure of a few things when I do this:

• I want something that can be reheated for the following day's lunch or repurposed into a salad;

• I try to focus on making balanced meals with protein, vegetables and grains; and

• I try to explore a little bit.

So for instance I got a little adventurous on Monday and tried poaching tilapia for the first time in my life. I paired that with brown rice and roasted Brussels sprouts. It was great and heated up pretty good the next day.

Along with this, I'm trying to snack better, too. That means fruit, nuts or maybe some yogurt.

Sticking with this has been a hassle at times and I've snacked on the occasional candy bar here and there, but it's been promising to see I've mostly stuck with it. It's kept an extra few bucks in my checking account and I know it has to be healthier than munching on something draped in butter too.

And here's the other thing, when I do cook I love it and do a pretty darn good job. I love cooking eggs or oatmeal in the morning for breakfast, a pasta for lunch and sauteeing some fish for dinner. It's a great way to hunker down for a half hour and not worry about upcoming deadlines or whatever it might be that is stressing me out.

If you eat out a lot, I'd challenge you this week to find a healthy recipe that intrigues or excites you. I'd bet you'll find it's a fulfilling way of (frugally) spending some time, while also helping you achieve some of your health goals.

Tip of the week from Vibrant Health

Start with breakfast

By Debra Sanders, R.D., C.D., C.D.E..

Let's face it, some morning can be rough. You may not have gotten enough sleep, or you did but it wasn't good sleep, leaving you restless and maybe even a little irritable.

When this happens, one of the first things we tend to do is seek out that quick "pick-me-up." Usually of the caffeinated variety.

We've been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but here's why: Breakfast helps kickstart your metabolism and burn calories throughout the day.

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