Food for thought

Cooking at home has given Beii Tan more control over her family’s diet. She also saves on expenses by making clothes for her two-year-old son, Jasper.

Cooking at home has given Beii Tan more control over her family’s diet. She also saves on expenses by making clothes for her two-year-old son, Jasper.

More and more families are choosing to prepare their own meals as a healthier and cost-saving alternative to eating out.

BEII Tan never used to pay much attention to the food that her family was eating. “But I did notice that my son would fall sick quick easily throughout the year, and I always wondered why.” After taking up a part-time course on diet and nutrition, Tan realised that her son’s everyday food intake had been affecting his wellbeing.

“I got a big shock when I started keeping track of what I was feeding him. I didn’t realise that his diet had so much junk food in it – fast food, soft drinks, potato chips. I immediately put a stop to that and I must say, his health really took a turn for the better,” says Tan, 26.

The family’s breakfast now consists of a special recipe – a fruit shake made with fresh green apples and banana infused with added protein and vitamin drink powder. Dinner is usually a moderate amount of steamed or stir-fried dishes coupled with a huge serving of vegetables.

Cooking at home, of course, comes with its own set of challenges, especially for a working mum like Tan. But the pros do outweigh the cons when it comes to packing up on the nutrition.

“When I cook at home, I literally have more control over what my family is eating. With our hectic lifestyles these days, the least you can do is watch what you eat,” Tan opines.

For engineer Suezilah Rahmad and her family of five, cooking at least one meal per day at home is not only healthier, but also comes as a definite cost-saving alternative to eating out.

“I shop at the wet market and for one week’s stock of food, I’d spend about RM150. That would make each dinner about RM20 to RM30. If we were to eat out, it would cost us more than RM50 per meal,” says Suezilah, 39.

When it comes to healthy eating, moderation is the key, she adds.

“I always try to whip up a balanced dinner for my family but sometimes, I just don’t have the time to prepare fancy dishes that are tasty and nutritious. So I try to keep things simple.”

Homemaker Samantha Lee uses the seasonal vegetables rule as a guide when it comes to organising her family’s weekly meal plans.

“Seasonal vegetables are usually those that are sold in abundance at a certain time. I tend to cook a lot of spinach, choy sum, kailan, bittergourd and pumpkin but I make it a point to buy vegetables that are in season because they’re fresher and cheaper too,” says Lee, 37.

The rule is to combine fresh ingredients with a simple cooking style, Lee continues.

“Stick to what works for you. Steam or grill your meat and avoid deep-frying whenever possible. Put away all your fancy cooking skills. You can’t go wrong when you stick to the basics.”

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