Contest: Did You Cook away the Pounds?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Tell us how healthy cooking and eating changed your life, and you could be featured in SparkPeople's next book.

We're always on the lookout for Success Stories. Not only do they serve as sources of inspiration for other members, but they are also our best marketing tool. Our next book, which will be published in late 2011, will focus on healthy eating and cooking, and we need your help.

We want to know how healthy eating, and specifically healthy cooking, has changed your life.

  • Did you makeover your family's meals and whip everyone into shape?

  • Has healthy cooking been key to your weight loss?

  • Have you learned to love cooking?

Share your Success Story with us, and you could be featured in the new book!

If you need help getting started, we've compiled a list of questions:

  • How are you passing along your healthy cooking and eating habits to your kids?

  • What is your go-to meal on a busy weeknight?

  • What is/are your kids' favorite meal(s)?

  • Why did you decide to start cooking?

  • How do you find time to cook healthy dinners?

  • How has learning to cook affected your life?

  • What is your diet like now compared with pre-weight loss?

  • What were your favorite foods then? What are they now?

  • What healthy foods have you learned to like?

  • How are your eating habits different?

  • What advice do you have for people who don't know how to cook?

  • What would you say to those who say they don't have time or money to cook healthy foods?

  • Did you lose weight and how much?

Whether it's a bulleted list of healthy tips you've compiled, a poem about your love for cooking, or a first-person narrative, make the story your own! Be creative.

We also want to see before and after photos!

You must submit your story by midnight EST on Monday, May 31, 2010, to be considered.

Join the contest's SparkTeam today! Then read the rules and terms here, then share your story in this thread.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


you suggest late 2011--i hope at least by October...that's a GREAT time to start marketing for Holiday presents...hint, hint Report
I've always loved to cook, for about as long as I can remember. One of my first memories is of helping my grandmother make Peanut Butter Blossom cookies with Hershey's kisses. Don't know how she did it, but there were never ANY kisses left over when we were done! But she was a very traditional cook - and we were, almost literally, one of those "It's Tuesday - Prince spaghetti night" families. Roast beef or chicken fricassee for Sunday dinner, fried pork chops and a can of corn or peas for Monday, spaghetti for Tuesday (with French's spaghetti sauce mix and meatballs), meatloaf and boiled potatoes for Wednesday, hot dogs and beans for Thursday, and tuna noodle casserole or fish sticks for Friday. Saturdays we were often at my aunts' and uncles' houses, but the fare was much the same. And Nanny P was very close-mouthed about her specialty recipes. I never did figure out what was in her Irish stew, other than bacon, yellow beans, potatoes and milk gravy.

So, when I began cooking for myself, I started with very much the same line up for meals. Meat, potatoes, vegetable and gravy. It took college and living on my own to break me out of the pattern. I never tried a piece of broccoli until my junior year in college! Then it had to be smothered in cheese sauce. Now it's one of my favorite things, steamed or raw.

Joining Spark has helped my cooking style immensely. I now allocate most of my weekly food budget to fresh vegetables and lean meats and fish. We still have an occasional drop into Velveeta Shells and Cheese, but I have entirely cut the "Helper" line from my grocery list. My husband loves my cooking, and will eat virtually anything I put in front of him, so that helps too. And his all time favorite meal is one I have put on SparkRecipes, "Karl's Favorite Steamed Veggie Platter." It is his birthday celebration meal every year, and sometimes I'll just do it because I am ravenous and need a high-volume but low-calorie dinner. I also bake and broil and crock pot more, with only the eventual foray into frying.

I use my Nutrition Page every Saturday morning and plan out our dinners for the following week, often searching SparkRecipes for some new take on an old favorite. I have shared fifteen or twenty recipes or so, some just old favorites that, being particularly unhealthy, are relegated to VERY special occasions, and some new "concoctions" that have turned out very well. I was asked on a cooking forum one time how I organize my favorite recipes and my answer was this: I don't. There are so many recipes out there, it is a rare occasion when I make a recipe more than once! I am always looking for new combinations!
Growing up, I was never allowed to cook. I used to watch my mom, and learn from her. She would make the most amazing fried chicken, fettuccini alfredo, eggplant parmigana, and noodle kugel. I loved learning from her, and was always mentally taking notes for the time that I could finally be the one cooking.

When I got to college, I lived in a dorm. It was my first opportunity to really cook. I did everything I could with a George Foreman Grill, microwave, and a blender. This was when I started really teaching myself and using Momís lessons, but not really caring what it was doing to my health.

Immediately after college, I got married. By that point, I weighed close to 230 pounds, and was only 5í2Ē. Since I had my own kitchen, my love of cooking took off. I would make chicken French, crescent dogs and homemade French fries, hearty pastas, and use a lot of cheese and bacon!

Four years later, though, I realized that we wanted to start a family, and I did not want my children to grow up being obese, the way I did. This was a big turning point for me. I did things slowly, at first, like switching to whole wheat pasta, and adding more veggies into basic dishes. I started fooling our friends with ground turkey sloppy joes and whole wheat crust pizzas. Then, I started looking at various low-fat, healthy cooking cookbooks and websites for inspiration.

Since getting married, I have lost close to 90 pounds, 65 of which have been in the past two years. I work 40 hours a week, and exercise daily either before or after work. Finding the time to cook has been an issue, but I make it a priority. On nights when I know I wonít be home until after 6, I throw two chicken breasts in the crock-pot with some salsa and black beans. It cooks during the day, and then I put it over brown right when I get home. Other nights, Iíll make my husbandís favorite meal, which is sloppy joes and twice baked potatoes. It sounds unhealthy, until you realize that my sloppy joes have four different veggies in them, ground turkey, and a homemade sauce. Iíve replaced the butter in my potatoes for chicken broth, and use a 2% milk cheddar cheese. I cook 5 out of 7 nights a week. One night is spent with my parents, who have completely changed their lifestyle, and the other we go out. I now know how to eat healthy at restaurants because of my cooking.

Because of all of these changes in my cooking, my cholesterol is normal for the first time in 28 years, I have escaped Type 2 Diabetes, and I weigh less than 140 pounds. I am the same weight I was when I was in sixth grade. My doctor also gave my husband and me the go-ahead to start planning to have a baby. Four years ago, when we thought we wanted to, I was at such high risk for gestational diabetes. My blood pressure was ridiculously high for a 24 year old, and I was always getting sick. Healthy cooking has been the key to that change.
I've always been interested in healthy issues and....and even,from a child my mum always did things in moderation....................Now that i'm an adult
that stays with me.........My daughter is married with her family and into healthy as well.......................So with hubby and I all my meals I prepare as healthy as possible...tasty..lots of spices.....fruits and veggies.......I never go over board in the salt and sugar area........or fats.....using these in moderation.........And trying to control....portion Report
My kids are more apt to try new items because they are outside playing now and come in famished. I still make healthier versions of old faves, but the new stuff has been a hit, too. Still working on getting more veggies in all of us! Report
I have started my healthy cooking as of January 2010 and with that I found a new love for food. I rush home from work to try to find new recipes and share it with my family. I try different substitutions for food. I now use wheat instead of flour, apple sauce or lemon juice instead of oil, I use yogurt instead of mayo and sour cream. I am trying everything possible to make sure the foods I cook are healthy and low in fat and sugar. I take fatty foods like potato salad and make them with non-fat yogurt and mayo. I took a bowl that would of been 3000 calories and made it 995! That's crazy for a bowl that feeds 6 and guess what? It's didn't taste any different! I just love that!!! I take foods I love and find low-fat ways to make them. I even make healthy lunches of veggies marinating in low-fat dressing on the panini maker, little healthy 100 calorie pizzas. I love cooking so much I make a grocery list to cook at work so I can show my co-workers how to eat better and healthy. They are enjoying the meals I prepare and in return there losing weight! Lunches are always under 300 calories. I get so excited when I find new foods in the market that taste great and are low in calories and carbs. It's like I won the lottery. With all of my eating healthy and with regular exercise I lost 30lbs. I changed my life and my family's life to live healthy. I feel more energized and I feel happy to cook and most of all I love to share it with my friends and family! Cooking has become a major staple in life in a good way! I am excited to have good, filling, healthy meals. Huh, I mentioned dinner and lunch, but didn't mention my healthy breakfasts! I usually make steel cut oatmeal, or I make egg sandwiches on low fat English muffin with egg whites only. I also found a new love for yogurt, with frozen berries and granola. I try to keep breakfast filling, high in fiber and under 300 calories. Breakfast, which I never used to make, is my favorite meal of the day!! So yes, cooking as changed my life for the better and I am proud of my accomplishment!! So proud I started a Getting in Shape group on Facebook to share all of my recipes, workouts and support for each other. it's great group and people are telling me there losing weight the healthy way because of my group. I am very proud and I honestly don't think I have ever been so happy in my life!

Great subject! Great questions!

I grew up in an Okla. farm family, where our meals were always huge, with lots of fried foods (even veggies), gravies & sauces, desserts, butter, etc., etc. I was taught very young how to cook (at least foods such as these), have been cooking for over 60 years now and I LOVE to cook and always have!

Needless to say, with that kind of a diet (even though I long ago moved to California) I and my whole family were overweight. About 40 years ago, while my kids were still in elementary school, I decided to cut out the amount of fats and sugars we were eating. I bought several diet/low-fat cookbooks and found many recipes that were delicious. We also somewhat paid more attention to portion size without any real guidelines. As a result, I and my kids all lost weight to some degree--my husband didn't, but he was one of those lucky ones who didn't have a weight problem no matter how much he ate. Then, for some unknown reason, I got away from that style of cooking most of the time. So, I gained back the weight plus more (but my kids didn't, thank goodness).

So about 30 years ago, when my weight had reached 230+, upon my request, my doctor referred me to a great dietician. She advised me on a low-fat, low-sodium diet (my family has a very long history of high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, etc.) and an exercise program. She gave me a lot of booklets, etc. with pretty good information. One of the best tips she gave me, I believe, was that I should never eat a serving of anything that wouldn't fit in the palm of my hand (except salad greens, etc.). This works well even when I'm eating out--I can "eyeball" the amount to eat and take home the rest.

So, I went back to my diet cookbooks. However, over the next few months, I started experimenting with making my "family" recipes in a low-fat, low-sodium way. Eventually, I found when cutting back on fat, sodium, etc. that extra or different spices, etc. actually helped the taste of the "diet" version of the food. I and my family were very surprized at how very little such modifications affected the taste and texture of those old recipes. (E.g., I now make a variety of very good low-fat, low sodium breads--using at least 1/2 whole wheat of course and a New England clam chowder--one of my family's favorites--that everyone raves about, but no one realizes it's a "diet" food unless I tell them.)

Incidentally, it only took about 3 weeks for my family to get used to the no/low sodium and they can always add some salt if needed. I have notice that even they use less salt now.

Over the following year, I lost 90 pounds and, by sticking to this new way of cooking and continuing an exercise program, I was able to keep it off for 20+ years. Then, as I got older the weight started creeping back (only about 3-5 lbs. a year) mostly because I had lessened my physical activity and was not as watchful of portion control. So I increased both and have lost that extra weight. This time, with the help of SP--where were you 30 years ago? It would have been so much easier then.

Now, I usually cook so that I have left-overs on most things. I store these in the fridge or freezer often in single portions so that I have things ready to heat up for a quick go-to meal. Easy to fix a quick meal for 1 or 2.

I don't think cooking "healthy" is any more expensive than cooking any other way (except maybe fresh veggies and fruits cost more when out-of-season but then are cheaper when in-season.) One of the best things I ever did was buy a freezer. There are so many things (meats, veggies, fruits, etc.) that I buy when they are in-season or on sale and store in the freezer.

For those who say they don't have the time or money to cook healthy, buy a freezer, cook extra things when you do have time, buy things in-season or on sale, and store them. The cost of a freezer will pay for itself very quickly, especially when you consider the cost of restaurant food, frozen dinners, etc. If you don't really have space for a freezer, do like I had to do at one time--put it in a friend's garage and made a trip every week or so to get things out and/or put things in. You can even pay your friend a few dollars every month for the electricity; however, when a freezer isn't open too often, it doesn't use very much electricity at all.

For people who don't know how to cook: Buy a good, basic cookbook (like Better Homes & Garden, Betty Crocker, etc.). Such cookbooks usually give you a lot of information about basic cooking, cooking terms, etc., very often with illustrations. Also, many years ago I found a great cookbook that not only has a lot of recipes prepared in a conventional way, but tells you how to make those recipes in a microwave and/or crockpot. (I no longer have that book--a friend borrowed it and never returned it--or I would give you the name and publisher. Sorry) Note: by checking out the comments from SP'rs on similar recipes, you can learn about different modifications we have tried.

For everyone else, check out the recipes on SP. These recipes do tend to be closer to a maintenance diet, but most can be easily modified to reflect your specific diet (e.g., low sodium, etc.), and/or your favorite veggies/fruits, etc. Report
How are your eating habits different?
I eat smaller servings, but I now eat 4-5 times a day instead of eating 1-2 larger meals per day. I use the small plates while the guys use the bigger plates. I eat more veggies as I grow most of my own, or what I can't grow, I get from the farmers market. I love cooking most days so I can control what we eat. When it is time for a snack, we have fresh fruit. I love a good fruit salad. Report
When you get used to eat homemade food you just can't eat frozen dinners anymore.
I always loved to cook but for last couple years I changed the way I prepare food. No butter, no salt, no full fat dairy. Spices, vinegar, olive oil. Lots and lots of veggies. Report
I was always really bad about cooking. I relied on fast food for about 70% of my weekly meals. I didn't know how to cook nor did I think home cooking could be as good as fast food. I started slowly cooking meals after joining this site to speed up the weight-loss, but after just a couple weeks I'm learning to love it! It's fun and I can see exactly what's going into my food. I used to try to try all the different restuarants to experience a variety of foods but I'm learning I have so much more options in my own kitchen! Report
I'm already looking forward to what I will learn from all of the wonderful SPARK cooking stories in the next "SPARK". I have always loved cooking. Growing up in a Greek family, Grandpa started a restaurant when he arrived in this country, and it was passed down to my parents and then to my brother and I. TALK ABOUT PORTION DISTORTION. I think the plates we served weighed in at 10 pounds.

My lesson is to eat slowly and enjoy each bite. BE AWARE and PRESENT at each meal. Drinking lots of water helps as well.

Thanks Spark. Report
I shop the outer aisles at the grocery, as I hate to cook. Use my George Foreman Grill as much as possible, which is fast and easy to clean. Report
This journey changed my cooking in a way that I don't use any premade saucemixes or mealpackages anymore. They are packed with sodium and other stuff that I don't want to eat anymore (for instant MSG). My feeling for responsibility became really apparent when I made all the dishes for a bbq myself last week. At some point I was stirring a dressing mix (the ones that you add oil and water to) and I threw it away telling myself that I can make them myself much better. It made me laugh...
So I served my guests with lots of stuff I made myself. It makes me proud to become responsible about food again. And I've recovered my love for cooking. Report
The one thing that has changed for me is the planning and cooking over the weekends for the following week. I used to either eat frozen dinners or whatever I could find - now I actually plan out my menu for the week, both lunches and dinners. I have found a new love for cooking. I used to say I cooked because I had to, now I am enjoying the time and creating good healthy meals! Report
Ok..i hated cooking, couldnt be bothered and lived off pasta,jacket potatoes and tinned stuff. I allowed my daughter to indulge in frozen meals,pasta and thought i was doing well as long as i kept her chocolate n crisps limited..I figured as long as we ate plenty of fruit we were ok!..I thought i was great if i mustered a quorn veggie bolognese!! Anyhow it was my 9yr old daughter that turned me around and my healthy eating plan..Let me explain...
I was an overweight child and from the age of 14 i have exercised. I have also flirted in the realms of anorexia (my weight getting to 7 stones) and bulimia (my weight going to 12 stones) My attitude to food has been an all or nothing experience..erratic eating, emotional eating, drinking to much get the picture!!
Despite my dedication to exercise i just couldnt get my head round the eating side of things...Then a comment was made about my weight and it hit home just what a state i had let myself get with the help of SP and a recgonised slimming club I went onto lose 2 stone but the main factor was my daughter.
My daughter spends quite alot of her scholl holidays with my family so i can work. My mum and dad PLAN their meals a day or two in advance so they can buy in what they need etc. My daughter loves this routine and loves choosing her foods so i decided that at least 4 days a week when i am off work we would do it too..
I am still stocking up my herbs and spices, my untensils,pots n pans so i always have what i need and my cook books but we do it..WE decide, WE cook together, WE eat together and WE love it!! It doesnt have to be hard or take forever, I can prepare a healthy dish in an hour or less including pudding!
I always include my daughter and we always cook for four then the leftovers get frozen and they are there for the days i am late off work etc...
If i can be converted then you can too!! Nothing fancy just prior planning and preparation prevents poor and pudgy people!! xx
P.s most of my meals are less than £5.00!! Report
Growing up with an Italian grandmother living 3 blocks away, we grew up eating lots of pasta and homemade bread. I could never totally give up pasta but knew that I had to cut back on the amount I was eating. To do this I began adding broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and zucchini chunks. It adds to the flavor and to my veggie counts for the day. I also choose sauces that are lower in calories and sodium. For added zest I add either some fresh hot peppers or cayenne pepper spice.

Being that no one can make homemade bread as good as my grandma's (who passed away in 1995), cutting back on bread wasn't as difficult. When I do have bread I limit to one small unbuttered slice or one breadstick, making sure that it fits in my daily nutrition tracker. Report
We eat pretty clean fresh fruit and veggies, no salt, sugar & process food in our diet. I am enjoying to cook clean. Report
We try to have something "living" at each meal. Fresh fruit or vegetable, not cooked. The kids look forward to the apple, cucumber and carrot sticks and eat those first. Report
I have always eaten based on sound nutrition. Since age 5 I was cooking for the family with my Grandmother.
Cooking was NEVER my problem. I do believe the tracker is the key for me.
The ambiguous word servings in recipes is the problem. I have put in recipes from WW and other weight loss sites and many of them are way too high in lots of things. It was not untill I had this amazing tool come in to our lives did i get it right. I still cook every meal from scratch. it is my way. Weight loss began when i learned HOW LITTLE I NEEDED. I am never hungry even now, I have never craved food. I was raised in a poor family and food was sustenance not entertainment as it has become. YES I enjoy the entire process, Making it, Tasting, sharing it and ENJOYING it. Now i feel i have it exactly right thanks to SPARK. Pat in Maine. Report
Now this is a contest right up my alley. Cooking has always been a passion for me! Report
I simply love to cook. What I believe is that it is a very healthy habit to cook and carry your own food. I usually prefer to use a very little oil and avoid deep frying. But on the other hand I love using spices and often mix them up to get the extra flavour. Happy cooking to everyone out in Spark. Report
I have always loved to cook and have been good at it (maybe too good). I have learned a lot from the members that belong to Spark. Unfortunatley, many people think that calories in and calories out and portioned controlled frozen dinners are the answer.
I have on the other hand, LEARNED how to cook healthy food. Report
I love to cook. The food isn't so much the problem, it is the portion size. I decided to use smaller plates and use measuring cups instead of serving spoons so I know exactly how much my family and I are eating.
I have also started substituting items such as whole milk for fat free and splenda instead of sugar.
It's working for us but we have also started working out more as a family. Report
I've always cooked daily for more than 40 years now. I sat back,took a good look at myself after my last dr's visit ( weight on scale way past what I would have liked to see)and decided it was time to change. No more quick and easy mac and cheese or any freezer to oven or microwave fast foods. It was time to start with vegatables ,lots of them in the right amounts,and sensible portions of meats,starches etc. My five year old granddaughter is usually right by my side taking everything in and she is my greatest supporter!! She will still occasionally ask if I would like sweets, chips or her latest craze- strawberry milk, then quickly remark...maybe no nauni..I don't think it's healthy for you,but you can have some grapes!! So far, I've tried a lot of receipes and they have been quite tasty,also surprizingly so to my son and daughter-in-laws' amazement when I have revealed the low calorie count in the meal we just consumed !! Little by little we are all getting a bit more healthier every day !! Report
Cooking has never been my favorite. Although I'm proud of what I do cook! I've learned to try new recipes and have revamped my kitchen's supplies. I now only bring in whole grains; pastas, rice, barley, bread, rolls, etc. The only thing I have not gotten my family to change is flour tortillas. I allow that because I also bring in the corn tortillas and they'll eat those too. I use sea salt with iodine and use it sparingly. I only buy nonfat milk and lowfat dairy products like, cheese, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. I have switched over to greek yogurt. I use half egg whites and half whole egg when making omelettes or scrambled eggs. I only buy low sodium bacon and lunch meat. I make my own salad dressing so I know exactly what's in it.

I have tried to interest my children in cooking from a very young age, but only two took to it. I continue to encourage cooking at home and in a more healthy way, even now that they are adults. I'm always sharing a new recipe or trying one for our family get togethers.

I have lost a total of 86 pounds and I believe it has been possible because I cook the majority of our meals at home. I like to cook at least 5 dinners each week and only eat out twice. When we do eat out, we visit places that have the nutritional value online or at the location. That way we can make better choices. Or we just go to good old Subway!

Ultimately, I think cooking has made all the difference in my weight loss success. And as time goes on, I'm even learning to like it. I plan two to three days ahead so I'm not caught off guard, trying to put something together. I search for new recipes daily and try them out. I continue to serve my family new things in hopes that they will like them. I continually try to bring the sodium down in all my dishes by experimenting with herbs and spices.

And all of this has made my weight loss journey a very successful one. Report
This is such a great topic! I read a lot of dailyspark articles but rarely comment.
This is exactly what I'm working on for my weight loss journey. In the past, I've always worked out and ate right, I'd lose several pounds, but then gained them all back all because I dislike to cook. This time, I'm not focusing on working out, I'm not even focusing 100% on eating right, I'm learning to cook. I don't have any kids, so this isn't a responsibility for me. Since I didn't cook well, unfortunately, fast food is what I'd choose to eat. I've been a member of SP since 2008, but I wasn't active during 2009. In Jan 2010 I set up these new cooking goals, and as of today, May 17, 2010, I've learned 3 dishes that I can cook well and I like. This process is slower for me than when I used to work out. I've only lost a few pounds as of today. I don't think I'll ever enjoy cooking, and so my focus is learning to cook quick meals. Thank you for the great topic! :-) Report
1. How are you passing along your healthy cooking and eating habits to your kids?
Small Changes Work Wonders. The REAL Taste of Veggies and Fruit are the key. I really started them early but now we make outings out of it. For example, we go to the local farmers market and each child gets to pick out their favorite fruit/veggie for the week. We come home and i take time with each child and teach them how to prepare the food they have chosen.
2. What is your go-to meal on a busy weeknight? My Go to Meal is BBQ Chicken Kabobs complete with veggies! Thanks goodness for the BBQ!

3. What is/are your kids' favorite meal(s)? My Kid's Favorite Meal is tacos. I chop up tons of different veggies and sides and they can create their own. We are not much of a sauce/condiment family so guacamole and sour cream is never on the menu!

4. Why did you decide to start cooking? I started Baking as a teenager. But as for fresh cooking was when I started SP! The recipes were easy to follow and measure and started planting my own garden to enjoy the fruits of my labor!

5. How do you find time to cook healthy dinners? With 3 kids, life is busy but there is plenty of time to plan my meals for the week. We have a large Deep Freezer, so I cook alot of Batch Cooking. That sure saves alot of time, in its self.

6. How has learning to cook affected your life? Cooking has given me more confidence in life. I really aim to please and if I bring a yummy dish to people's houses, or even my own, my sense of empowerment gives my the strength to keep it up!

7. What is your diet like now compared with pre-weight loss? Pre-Weight Loss = Packaged/Boxed Dinners. Almost every meal was one of those. i didn't know how to cook and still burnt almost all the meals. Now, My fridge is stocked with veggies and items like apples and carrot sticks are in reach of my kids for an easy go-to snack. It really is amazing. Now if I were to prepare one of those infamous packaged/boxed dinners, I can only take a few bites. To me they don't taste good. They taste like salt with a hint of grease. how is that even food when you can have fresh food straight from your own garden!

8. What were your favorite foods then? What are they now? Fave then = candy bars from the vending machine down the hall. Now = Tomatoes, they are so versatile. They go with everything!

9. What healthy foods have you learned to like? Before I never cared for Beans and Legumes. Now they are a staple in the house and fun to make.

10. How are your eating habits different? Before I would buy packaged dinners or visit the local drive through. Now I plan my meals in advance, when I have some extra time, I will batch cook. I have even started canning my excess food, so we can have "fresh" fruits and veggies in the dead of winter! Nothing like the taste of summer when snow is on the ground!

11. What advice do you have for people who don't know how to cook? Start small. Crock Pots/slow cookers are great for busy people. Just prepare in the morning and turn on. Aim for a nice family meal once a week and make the whole family involved with the prep. It teaches everyone the importance of cooking and how it can be done!

12. What would you say to those who say they don't have time or money to cook healthy foods? invest in a Crock Pot and a Crock Pot Cook Book. If you can prepare in the morning(or even the night before) then just turn on! There is no excuse for being too tired, and when you come home from a busy day and your too tired to cook, the work is already done!

13. Did you lose weight and how much? I started SP May 2007 at 200 lbs and I have currently lost 60 and happily maintaining for the last 2 years! Thanks SP!
I don't mind cooking. I hate to clean up afterwards!!! I have tried to incorporate more veggies into our diet. The kids have been reluctant to try some of the meals but I keep putting healthy choices in front of them. I made the decision when I started this journey that if there was a meal that the kids really didn't like that I would allow them one "opt-out" dinner a week. Opt-out is where if they really don't want to eat what I make they can make their own dinner. I also try to hide veggies (with the help of the blender) in some of their favorite meals without them knowing. I always keep at least one fruit bowl of fruit and usually it is two bowls so that we can all have easy access to the fruits. Our favorite meals include Portabella Stuffed Mushrooms, Healthier Lasagna, Veggie Omlettes and chicken. I have always cooked but now I don't even consider buying any pre-made dinners in the freezer section. I may walk down the aisle for an inspiration but usually say to myself that I can make it from scratch and make it a healthier option for the family. As far as our eating habits being different, I have to be realistic because we have three children 14, 13 and 9, and we always have other children at our house. They still want cookies, fruit snacks and chips. I still buy those things (the healthier ones) and 98% of the time I am able to resist those things but I never limit what I eat. If I want a cookie I eat a cookie - but the difference now is I will eat one cookie vs eight!!! I joined SparkPeople in January of 2010 and my goal in weight loss is not to lose it NOW - but to make positive lifestyle changes and the weight loss will naturally happen. I didn't gain the extra 43 pounds overnight and don't intend to lose it that way! So far, the weight loss to date is 19 pounds. To those who say they don't have time or the resources - I know that at first cooking meals is a little more time consuming and healthier foods tend to be on the more expensive side. But, if you make those changes now for yourself then eventually you will be eating less which will even out your costs. If someone doesn't know how to cook then they should search the recipes on SparkPeople and just follow them and eventually they will become really good cooks. Another option is to cook on the weekends for several meals at a time. When I make the sauce for my lasagna I make enough sauce for three 9x13 pans of lasagna. I will ladle the sauce into a gallon ziplock bag, write the contents and how to cook it on the bag. Then when I want to make lasagna on a busier day, all I have to do is make sure to take it out of the freezer and prep time and mess is limited to one time vs three. I also use the crockpot a lot of the time. I am not perfect yet, but each day is a new day to make the rest of ALL of our lives better than yesterday! Report
I cook fresh vegetables without sauces, I bake, broil or grill my meat unless it's stir fry using very little olive oil. I make my own chicken & vegetable broths, if it has to be breaded, I use crushed plain bran flakes, I eat more fruit & yogurt. I have learned to make my own spice combinations without salt.

Cooking takes time, some people have a lot of time, some don't. Batch cook on weekends, use the crock pot, ask the family to help.
I still don't like to cook and I'm 52 and been cooking for 33 years. Report
I have my 13 yr old be the prep cook, now he wants to make up his own recipes. All of us are better eaters now Report
I love to cook, but I am a country cook - big, heavy, full course meals, feed an army cook, lol. We always loved our salad, as long as it was accompanied by meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, creamy veggies and dessert. Through Spark People, I've made one little change after another until my suppers today really do not resemble the last 25 years. I've dropped the sauces and my family has discovered that they love roasted veggies. The meat is more often a lean chicken cooked many times with a Spark People recipe I've found on the site. I have introduced things like wheat pasta, whole grain breads, low-fat cheeses which have become staples. Dessert has been a difficult thing to tackle, so I'm relying on frozen yogurt to replace ice cream and low-calorie fudge bars or mini chocolate candies so the calories are controllable.

Using the SP nutrition report has made me very aware now of what we are lacking and how many empty or unhealthy calories my family was consuming. My family is everything to me and feeding them well, instead of feeding them much, has become the goal. My younger son and I have lost 30 lbs since making the changes I've made in the last 6 months. My daughter-in-law has lost 25 lbs and is very close to her goal weight. Although my husband and older son are at proper weights, I am pleased knowing they are eating properly now and getting the nutrition they need. Report
I have been cooking much differently then i used to cook . more vegetables and less fried foods . more beans less fat . i changed my oils and i changed our butter spread . . i read receipes and try new ideas . new ways of cooking . Report
Like 4URYOU, I have always enjoyed cooking. I think my cooking has shifted from a luxury - to spoil my friends/family and myself with 'better than restaurant' meals - to a more healthy approach to fuel my body.

I used to cook once or twice a week...mostly on weekends; but now find myself cooking or preparing something every other day, if not every day. The time I've allowed myself to prep elaborate meals in the past has been impacted, but I'm learning to rely more on my crockpot and make-ahead meals so I always have something in the freezer that is healthy and properly portioned. Another thing that has changed is the portion sizes in general. I find a that a meal that used to last 1 or 2 days at most is now stretching 4+ days when combined with a salad. I've learned to balance proper portions of protein with whole grains and sneak veggies in everything! I'm also starting to learn how to translate my old favorites into healthier versions, which is proving successful for entertaining! Bon Appetit! Report
I have never enjoyed cooking - so this is still a struggle for me. I think the main reason is that I just do not take the time. When I have a day and can focus just on the kitchen, I do enjoy it more.
I do have an opportunity to try new recipes. I have a son who comes over Monday evenings for "Dinner and a Movie". He brings the movie and I "cook". He loves tacos so that is what I fix most of the time. But, this would be a good time to experiment.
So, beginning this evening have a new recipe I am going to try. Will see how this goes.
Thanks for the inspiration!!
Barb Report
I have always enjoyed cooking, so that was never a problem. I have learned to not only cook differently but look at food in a whole different light. I think of my meals as tasty fuel now. And I have learned just how much I love fresh spinach steamed with onions and garlic . Yum Report
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