Taking a Bite out of Dining in Benefits

Taking a Bite out of Dining in Benefits

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There’s definitely a new trend emerging in the U.S.: American’s annual restaurant visits have flattened out and consumers have increased the number of meals they make at home, according to this article.

Why the recent shift from eating out to eating in? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 1999, the percentage of women in the work force has leveled off slightly resulting in less money in the family budget. “The young women in the 2000s started saying, ‘You know what? I can stay at home and watch my children,'” says Harry Balzer, a vice president at research firm NPD Group who studies how Americans eat. “If you start moderating income, you have to moderate the food costs.”

The article cites that last year, 207 restaurant meals were purchased per person, down from a peak of 211 in 2001, according to NPD. Meanwhile, Americans prepared 861 meals at home in 2007, compared with 817 in 2002, NPD says.

Even men are getting into the kitchen, according to NPD. Eighteen percent of at-home dinners in 2007, compared with 14 percent in 2003, were prepared by men and the group speculates that the growing popularity of fancy home grills may be linked to male-factor increase.

0408_SENSIBLE.jpg   Another contributing factor to the eating-in trend is the “foodie phenomenon” or the popularity of television cooking shows such as the Food Network’s insanely huge hits: Rachael Ray’s “30 Minute Meals,” Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home,” Paula Deen’s “Paula’s Home Cooking,”  Emril Lagasse’s “Emeril Live” and “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee.” These celebrity chefs have made millions just by teaching countless people how to create restaurant-style dinners at home.

Cooking at home is also far healthier than dining out. This article states that a number of nutritionists are calling for Americans to reduce their risk of cancer and other diseases by cooking at home more and eating out less. “The more you eat in, the more you can control and the healthier your plate is going to be,” says Rachel Brandeis of the American Dietetic Association. “I wish people would think that when they are eating, they could be lowering their cancer risk.”

According to the article, people consume 50 percent more calories, fat and sodium when they eat out than when they cook at home. And restaurant customers often miss out on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other vitamin-rich “powerhouse foods” that may reduce the risk of cancer, Brandeis said. Another factor that consumers have no control is portion size. Typically restaurant portions include two and sometimes three servings. It goes without saying, larger portions = more calories.

Making Cooking at Home Work
The Washington-based American Institute for Cancer Research, which focuses on the link between diet and cancer, has produced a booklet called “Homemade for Health.”

Melanie Polk, the institute’s director for nutrition education, suggests these tips for making cooking at home fun, easy and effective:

  • Buy frozen, pre-cut vegetables or prewashed greens. Toss vegetables into salads, pasta sauces, stews, lasagnas, pizzas, quiches, sandwiches or omelets.
  • Buy bags of frozen berries for breakfast smoothies.
  • Reclaim prime time. Instead of taking your dinner into the family room — by eating takeout food on the couch — take the TV into the kitchen. Ask the entire family to help prepare dinner while watching their favorite shows.
  • In place of shuttling kidsbetween games and lessons – and stopping for fast food on the way home — cancel one activity a week and ask the children to help you make dinner.
  • When using prepared foods or frozen dinners, add one or two steamed or microwaved vegetables to the plate.
  • Choose the right ingredients. Red or tan new potatoes give a meal extra fiber, for example, but don’t need to be peeled.
  • On the weekend, cook an extra-large batch of a healthy dish, divide it into individual servings and freeze small portions for later.
  • When making tomato sauce, tacos or fajitas, use twice as many vegetables but half as much meat or cheese.
  • Stock the pantry with healthful foods that can be prepared quickly, such as minced garlic and canned chickpeas.
  • Purée the veggies into soups to coax kids into eating more vegetables.

Close to Home
I cook a lot. So much so, that now, I prefer eating my home-cooked meals to eating out. And I’m not an egotistical gal who brags about her cooking, I cook because of a couple of major factors: I am an Indian vegan, who loves her food, extra spicy and extra cruelty-free. It’s much easier for me to whip something together than have to be worried whether or not what I ordered contains animal products hidden somewhere. That doesn’t mean I don’t go out to eat; I still do, but I find preparing a meal to my exact liking extremely rewarding and not to mention filling!

One of my major goals in cooking at home, is to be able to veganize traditional non-vegan recipes to the point that my friends, coworkers and family will exclaim, “Wow! I can’t believe this is vegan!”

One of my most unanimous crowd-pleasing dishes that I always make is my vegan chili. And only because I love and am so devoted to Cincy Chic, I have decided to divulge the recipe for my chili that has even the non-vegans singing praises and saying, “Who needs meat?!” So go ahead, whip up a batch, invite some girlfriends over for a “girls’ night in” and enjoy! (Caution! Extremely addictive…and spicy!)

Maureen’s Vegan Chili




     2 tablespoons olive oil
     2 (12 ounce) package vegan “ground beef” crumbles (I usually use Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles)
     1 package of button mushrooms, sliced
     6 red potatoes, diced
     1 (15.25 ounce) can kidney beans
     1 (15.25 ounce) can pinto beans
     1 small package of frozen corn
     3 large yellow onion, chopped
     3 tablespoons diced garlic
     4 stalks celery (and leaves), diced
     3 large carrots, diced
     2 green bell peppers, chopped
     3 packets of taco seasoning
     1 small can of diced jalapenos
     1 small can of diced green chilies
     1 box vegetable broth (I always use Imagine’s Organic No Chicken Broth)
     1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
     2  tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
     1 tablespoon Sriracha
     1 teaspoon cumin
     3 tablespoons garlic powder
     1-2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)
     1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
     3 tablespoons vegan Worchestire
     3 tablespoons soy sauce

     Vegan sourcream (my fav is Toffutti’s Sour Supreme Non-hydrogenated)
     Tortilla chips
     Diced tomatoes


   1. In large stockpot, saute vegetables (except beans and corn) in olive oil, until softened. Add seasonings.
   2.  Add vegan cumbles, crushed tomatoes, broth, beans and corn.
   3. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally and bring to a slow boil.
   4. Continue simmering on lowest heat, covered, for an hour.
   5. Turn heat off completely and let “rest” for at least a few hours (best if cooked a day ahead before serving.)
   6. Serve with fixins and enjoy!

FYI, for those who are wondering, I get all my vegan ingredients from the “health/natural foods” sections of local Kroger stores. The best stores are the Hyde Park Kroger, St. Bernard Kroger and Union Kroger in Kentucky.


  • Visit ChooseVeg.com for a plethora of step-by-step videos (and recipes) on how-to-cook delicious vegetarian/vegan meals for you and your family.
  • Or check out the Food Network’s Video Center for streaming videos from the network’s celebrity chefs.
  • Check out what others have to say about whether eating out is cheaper than eating in/cooking, here.
  • Here are some of my favorite vegan food blogs/sites that I scour frequently for culinary inspiration:
  1. FatFree Vegan Kitchen. Yes! It’s possible to live a “sinlessly delicious” life as SusanV likes to call her blog.
  2. Vegan Yum Yum. Twenty-five-year-old Lolo is so famous for her Knit Night Cupcakes that she even was featured on The Martha Stewart Show!
  3. The Post Punk Kitchen. Click here for some excellent cooking videos from the PPK.
  4. The Vegan Lunch Box. One of the first sites that I found online that made my decision to become vegan an easy one.
  5. Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen.



Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: Gateway Quarter
Model: Laurie Reed
Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics