Garden City Telegram

Q: I'm sick of cooking all the time! Why shouldn't I go back to eating out and ordering in more often? - Leslie J., Lafayette, Indiana

A: If you follow guidelines, it may be OK. But ... there's always a but ... if you're like most Americans, at least four to five of your weekly meals are already from drive-thrus, diners, pizza joints and chain restaurants. At an average of $15 dollars a meal, they cost four times more than having a healthy home-cooked meal. And your budget isn't the only thing that's damaged when you eat lots of commercially prepared meals. 

A 15-year study found people who regularly ate two or more commercially prepared meals a day were 67% more likely to die from cancer and 18% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than folks who rarely ate commercially prepared food. 

The good news is that the pandemic created an uptick in the number of folks cooking at home. One report found that 11% of people are eating breakfast at home every day more frequently; 12% are having home-cooked dinner more often, and 13% are eating lunch at home more often.  The big question: Will you stick with it? We hope you do. So here are some tricks to make it easier:

-  Cook once, eat three times. Soups, casseroles, stews, pasta sauces, whole chickens and poached salmon can be cooked once and then divided into multi-meals or frozen for later enjoyment. 

-  Cook with the greats: Create wonderful meals as you follow online video instructions from chefs such as Daphne Oz and Lidia Bastianich. At, enjoy the "In the Kitchen" videos featuring Dr. Mike and Chef Jim, in coordination with Dr. Michael Crupain, their co-author of "The What To Eat When Cookbook."

-  Get friends and family involved! Cooking together is fun, and it upgrades everyone's health. 

Q: I want to eat a more plant-based diet, but how can anyone eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day? I still want animal protein too. -- Steph F., Lexington, Kentucky

A: We have two words for you. Slowly. Affectionately.  

Slowly. You don't have to go from two servings of fruits and veggies a day - what the average American gets - to five or more overnight. Also, don't fret about what a serving is; eat a heaping handful's worth to start.

-  Your initial goal: To slowly work up to two servings of fruit and three of non-starchy vegetables a day. A study in Circulation found that compared with people eating only two servings a day of produce, folks eating five servings daily reduced their risk of death during the 30-year study by 13%. 

-  If you make your lean protein (salmon or skinless chicken) a side of 3 to 6 ounces instead of the centerpiece, you'll naturally eat more veggies and fruit to fill up!

Affectionately. Start with what you like. Write out a list of five of your favorite vegetables and five of your favorite fruits. For today, choose one fruit and one veggie from the list that you don't have in the house and go buy 'em.

-  Eat the fruit (that's the easiest).

-  Look up a recipe for that one veggie favorite and add it to your dinner menu. Bravo! If you're typical, adding that to the two servings you normally eat in a day, will get you up to four servings! (Nothing fried or breaded, please!)

-  Tomorrow have fruit with your breakfast. Add another veggie on your list to lunch and to dinner. 

-  The next day for dinner, stir-fry a lean protein plus three veggies from your list. Have fruit for dessert.

-  In a week or two, aim to be eating five or more items from your list of favorite fruits and vegetables each day. Then, branch out. Try new fruits and vegetables. The more colorful a variety you eat, the more they protect you from cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and obesity.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.