Scot: Theresa, are you ready for the challenge?
Theresa: Yeah. Bring it on.
Scot: Nayeli, are you good to go?
Nayeli: Let's do it.
Scot: How about Jhonny?
Jhonny: I never am.
Scot: Can you make an exception and maybe be ready for this one? And Alex, are you ready for the challenge?
Alex: I've been waiting my whole life, Scot.
Scot: Welcome to the "4-Week Make More Meals at Home Challenge" with the U of U Health Cooking Crew, where we hope to overcome the challenges you face making meals at home, whatever they happen to be.
Here's how it's going to go down. Every week, we'll get a different recipe from Registered Dietician, Theresa Dvorak. We're going to make it, and then we're going to talk about how it was, the experience, and also how was the food itself. Our hope is you'll join along and let us know what you think. How did it taste? What challenges did you face? What were the insights or setbacks or successes you had?
After four weeks, we hope that you will have made some steps to overcoming your cooking-at-home barriers. And in the process, we also hope to learn a little bit more about nutrition and that cooking healthy can also taste good.
So this is the very first episode of the 4-Week Challenge, and it's all about meeting the crew. We're going to talk about some common barriers that we have making meals at home. And then Theresa is going to have some questions for us so she can give us some custom-made recipes to overcome some of those challenges for the next four weeks.
So, first, let's meet Theresa Dvorak. She's a registered dietician. She's also the Director of Culinary Medicine at the University of Utah College of Health's Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. Theresa, welcome to the program.
Theresa: Excellent. Thanks, Scot. Glad to be here.
Scot: A question for you, and we're going to ask the crew this question in a couple of seconds. Obviously, you do not have any barriers to keep you cook from cooking at home. I bet you're cooking at home all the time, right?
Theresa: Oh my gosh, I have just as many barriers as other folks. And some days I'm successful and other days I'm not. So I am right there with all of you.
Scot: All right. And what's your major barrier for making the number of meals at home that you want to make? Or are you pretty happy with the number of meals that you make at home?
Theresa: Scot, I have three little kids, and so if I can just get dinner on the table without . . . My goal is to make three-fourths of the people around the table happy, which is no easy feat.
And so barriers, just like anybody else's, is time. Two full-time working parents and trying to get some good things that my children will still eat on the table is definitely a barrier. So time and likes, dislikes, things of that sort. And sometimes I just throw my hands up and say, "What are we ordering?" And that's okay.
Scot: And that could be okay. Hey, Alex, I bet you really related to Theresa right there. So Alex is a member of the U of U Health Cooking Crew. She described her relationship with cooking at home as mostly hateful. And after becoming a working mom, she says it's straight-up dreadful. Alex, do you want to expand on that a little bit?
Alex: Yes. Dinnertime is my least favorite time of day at this point. I have an almost 2-year-old at home and obviously, I'm cooking her separate meals, which I probably shouldn't be at 5:00. But then yes, as a full-time working mom, my husband works full time, and we both don't like the same things. We're both trying to be healthy. I've got the little one hanging on my leg. So finding recipes that are quick and easy is very difficult for me.
Scot: Quick, easy, and then also you said you and your husband don't like the same things. What do you mean?
Alex: So my husband is very much a meat eater and can eat pork and steak and all of those things, and I'm less inclined to do that. I like more salads and I wish I could eat carbs all the time, but we just don't really like the same things. So that's also a challenge for us in our house.
Scot: Yeah. And you're trying to eat low carb during the week with the exclusion of meat, it sounds like?
Alex: Correct. Yes.
Scot: All right. And Alex, before we move on to the next member of the crew, what do you hope to get from our four-week challenge?
Alex: If I could just get a few go-to recipes that I could cook on weeknights that my toddler and my husband and I can enjoy, that would be amazing, and that also taste yummy and that are good for you.
Scot: Next member of the crew, Jhonny, says he's a home cook in the epicurious levels. I don't know what that means, Jhonny. Does that mean you're a bad cook or what?
Jhonny: I remember what I meant when I wrote that. It's basically I like to cook and I usually go to YouTube for my food cooking ideas. Yeah, I'll watch different cooking shows where they show you how to do it, but for the life of me, I can't do it without a recipe, much less if it's not visual.
Scot: I don't know that that's all that unusual, right? Jhonny, what barrier do you have to making food at home?
Jhonny: I would say definitely time, affordability, and just knowing how to portion everything out. I remember I tried doing some meal planning and I made like 100 burritos and I was sick of burritos by day two, so that didn't work out.
Theresa: Love it.
Scot: Maybe 50 burritos next time.
Jhonny: Yeah, maybe 50 next time. That's right.
Scot: And Jhonny, what do you hope to get from our challenge today?
Jhonny: Well, less burritos that taste better for less money.
Scot: Okay. Our next member of the crew, Nayeli, said she enjoys cooking. She started about three years ago while in college, comfortable in the kitchen. But are you not making as many meals at home as you want? What are your barriers?
Nayeli: So my situation is a little different. Fortunately, I don't have children to feed, but I have roommates to feed. So every week my roommates and I switch days during the week. There are three of us in total, so at least one of us cooks twice during the week, and it's only Monday through Thursday.
So, yeah, for the most part, I do get a lot of my recipes off TikTok. TikTok is my go-to. I am very much Gen X. I love TikTok for everything. So if I need a quick idea for a recipe, I just look it up on TikTok. If not, I also get a lot of recipes from my mom. And yeah, that's pretty much what goes on in my cooking life.
I think two of the main things that are kind of my barriers are sometimes I just want to make something fast and a lot of it, so there's enough to feed the three of us.
Jhonny: But not too much, right? Yeah, I'll give you my burritos.
Nayeli: Like catering.
Jhonny: Just take them.
Nayeli: The thing is, it's weird too because something in my household that we struggle with is not making enough because we usually make a lot for dinner and then lunch the next day. So sometimes if we don't make enough for dinner, we don't have lunch the next day.
Alex: I can 100% relate to that too, Nayeli.
Nayeli: Okay. And then I end up buying something for lunch and I'm like, "I shouldn't have bought something." So there's my thing.
Scot: All right. And I'm guessing Nayeli . . . Theresa, hopefully, you can help her with this. I was going to ask you, Nayeli, what do you hope to get from the challenge? I feel like you want to be able to really just show off and wow your roommates. Is that what you want?
Nayeli: You know what? Yes. But mainly, too, I will say I need to cook more healthier things because some of the things I . . . On TikTok, you see some stuff that looks good, but they aren't necessarily the healthiest. We love stuff with a lot of cheese, just stuff that may not be the healthiest.
Nayeli: Yeah, pastas. What I mainly cook is Mexican food. So a lot of Mexican food is not necessarily that healthy. So I really want to learn some new healthy recipes and of course impress my roommates so they can be like, "I have a roommate who's a chef."
Scot: Hey, Theresa, let's play off that question about cooking healthy because that's come up a couple of times, right? So what does that even mean? Is there such a thing as a healthy versus not healthy meal?
Theresa: I think from what we've heard today so far, everybody kind of has their own definition of what's a healthy meal. And we have this idea that it's got to be within kind of this narrow field, right? This narrow box as to what's a healthy meal. And in general, when I think about making a healthy meal, I am thinking about a variety. I am thinking about foods that are as close to their whole version as possible, so kind of less processed, fulfilling, and tasty. I'm very much a "if it doesn't taste good, why bother eating it" kind of mentality.
And so that's my goal for you all, is hopefully that at least one of these four recipes you find delicious, and we like to say unapologetically delicious.
Nayeli mentioned that Mexican food isn't healthy or that often isn't healthy. I have one or two recipes that might kind of beg to differ on that one. So I might be up to that challenge, Nayeli.
Nayeli: Yes, please.
Scot: I love it. Yeah, please don't tell me that cheese isn't healthy. I mean, come on, right? Who doesn't love cheese?
Theresa: All things in moderation, Scot.
Nayeli: An excessive amount of cheese?
Theresa: I know, right? I'm very much of the mindset of all foods in moderation and different portions. So there's a space for everything. It's more so how much of one particular food or food group, that it's not taking over from another area of food.
And then color, I often use color as my guide because if we have a lot of color, natural colors . . . I'm not talking like Flamin' Hot Cheetos, which is not a natural color, right? Thinking about that variety of colors is going to give us a variety of nutrients and health benefits. So all of those things will be sprinkled throughout.
Scot: And I also think that if it tastes good, why spend time making it, right? So we all talk about this . . . I think everybody said time, and I think that the time question is a complicated equation. There are different ways you can manipulate it.
One way might be, "All right. I will spend a half hour, but if I make two or three servings that I can have for the rest of the week, then I spent my time well."
Or if it tastes so good that I can't get it from an easier food source, like I can't go to the fast food place and get it, then the quality is worth the time investment, right?
So I think in order to get over this time thing, there are a lot of different ways you can manipulate that. So tasting good would be one of them because you are willing to invest a little bit of time in something that tastes great.
Theresa: Yeah. I think another area that is helpful for folks is thinking about what are our priorities as well. So when we think about health, diet is one of the primary pieces that we have control over. And that can be really powerful in thinking about kind of reprioritizing our time or how we think about the time we are spending cooking.
Scot: That the payoff for the health benefits is worth that time, and we've kind of got to reprogram our brain to understand that. That's just the cost. You've just got to spend a little time.
I've made a lot of progress in the kitchen in the past year. I took a similar challenge to this on another podcast that we do called "Who Cares About Men's Health." And it made me more comfortable in the kitchen, which was my barrier at that point. It was knife skills and just making the mess you have to make in order to get a meal sometimes. But even after that, and I got a couple of great recipes from Theresa, I still really don't cook that much.
I do want to bring this up. Currently, we subscribe to one of these meal services where they send you these prepackaged meals. You get the ingredients, so you do the prep and then put it together. I like that because it's easy, but I don't like it because it comes in a lot of plastic and stuff and it's a little expensive, right?
So I used to think time was my barrier, but it just might be that I'm lazy, I guess. I don't know. So maybe some reprioritizing about the importance of food. Expanding this effort needs to be more rewarding than eating convenience food. And I just hope that maybe by doing this challenge again, I'll start to develop a habit for it, a habit for working this into my life. Maybe that's the missing thing as well.
Theresa, would you like to ask any questions here as you plan out our first recipes? Do you have anything for Alex, Jhonny, Nayeli, or myself?
Theresa: Yeah. So I mentioned earlier that our food should taste good. So I would love to hear if you were trapped on a desert island and you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Scot: Why don't we go ahead and start with Alex on that?
Alex: That's easy. Well, I have a few. I'll pick one.
Scot: You have to pick one. That's the whole point of this exercise.
Jhonny: I guess it wasn't easy after all.
Theresa: Well, it could be lasagna and then there are five foods there for you.
Alex: Yeah, I'm an Italian girl. I'm going to go with pasta as my answer.
Scot: Okay. Pasta. How about you, Jhonny?
Jhonny: Well, before the meal prep I would've said burritos, but now . . .
Theresa: You're a little scared.
Jhonny: Yeah, I think I'll probably go with Peruvian chicken.
Scot: Wow. Okay.
Jhonny: A la brasa. I don't know how to . . . Yeah, it's really good, but it's probably super unhealthy.
Scot: Okay. Nayeli, how about you?
Nayeli: Oh my gosh, all of a sudden I forgot every single food that I've eaten. I mean, in general, my favorite dish that I love is mole. It's a Mexican dish with red rice, so I'll eat that all day, every day. But it's also super complicated to make and I've never made it.
Scot: All right. Theresa, I would say for me it's a steak and a potato. A New York strip and a baked potato with butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper. I could eat that every day.
Theresa: I love it. Yeah, I think that's really helpful in thinking about kind of where we're going around the world.
And then thinking about a little more broadly with nutrition questions I guess, do any of you have some specific kind of nutrition myths that you would like to have dispelled or nutrition questions that you would like us to kind of weave into our recipe conversations?
Alex: I do. I recently lost actually a significant amount of weight over the course of almost a year. And most of that was a low-carb diet. But obviously, I think in doing so, I probably am lacking in a little bit of just nutrition and overall nutrients.
And so now that I'm trying to just maintain the weight loss, what does my plate look like now and portion sizing and carbohydrates? And just kind of the overall what can I expect or some healthy tips now as I'm trying to maintain the weight that I lost?
Theresa: Excellent. Congratulations. That's a really hard thing to do. So thank you for sharing that, Alex.
Alex: Thank you.
Scot: Now, Theresa, it's your turn to answer that, or are you just incorporating this into . . .
Theresa: No, we'll talk about that probably all four weeks.
Scot: All right. Sounds good. Jhonny, I think you had one.
Jhonny: Yeah. It's sort of going along Alex's line. I've lost a somewhat amount of weight, not considerable, but I've lost some weight and I've done that by switching to basically two big meals a day and that's it. So I don't generally eat snacks. I generally skip breakfast, I'll eat a big lunch, and then I'll eat a big dinner, and then that's it.
And so I guess maybe talking about how healthy or unhealthy it is to have different portion sizes like that. Is it something that works for the long term? Something along those lines maybe.
Theresa: Cool. Thank you.
Scot: Nayeli, do you have something?
Nayeli: Maybe. I'll just go ahead and ask it. Using certain ingredients, should I be cooking with this type of oil versus this oil? Does it actually make a difference? Are there certain products of stuff with lower amounts of sodium and stuff like that?
Theresa: Sure. Thinking of recipe substitutes?
Nayeli: Yeah. Perfect.
Scot: All right. You're taking notes?
Theresa: I am. I'm scribbling.
Scot: Yeah. We're going to talk about these throughout the rest of the podcast series. These topics will be sprinkled in.
I don't have a health myth or a health concern other than I want to be sure that I'm eating a good amount of protein. And I know traditionally Americans tend to eat enough. As much as I love steak and potatoes, I have eliminated a lot of meat in my life. So I'm trying to go more towards a plant-based diet and the steak and the potato is more of a treat for me.
I think what I would love out of this challenge is perhaps a recipe that is built around some basics, like beans and rice, that I could take four or five different ways and get four or five different tasting experiences. Does that make sense?
Scot: Beans and rice are a staple, I think, of cultures throughout the world, but everybody makes it a little bit different. And I really kind of love Indian food, so an Indian food take. I like spicy Southwest food, so maybe a Southwest take on beans and rice.
I don't know if that's possible in four weeks or not, but I think that would be pretty neat if you had a base of good, healthy ingredients, and now how do I spice it and flavor it up so I'm not experiencing Jhonny's 100 burrito syndrome?
Jhonny: Lucky you.
Scot: Where I can sustainably eat . . .
Theresa: A little more like choose your own adventure.
Scot: Yeah. So I could sustainably eat these healthy, inexpensive ingredients where it's not the same every day, day in and day out, and I could sustain that. I think sustainability is a challenge I face.
Theresa: Yeah, and that's a really great point to bring up, too, Scot. I see that weaving in with our conversations of choosing meals that you can either repurpose or just change maybe the sauce or the spices or something of that sort. But the bases are the same.
And then it also uses our time wisely, because now I can have a prep day maybe that I can then prep for two or three days. And then when I'm actually cooking it, I'm not having to spend all that time chopping.
I have one last question. Any allergies or intolerances?
Scot: Good question.
Jhonny: I have one. Kiwi. I don't know if that's a thing, but I think if it is, I have it.
Scot: What happens if you eat kiwi?
Jhonny: I get this . . .
Scot: Do you sneeze or does your head blow up?
Theresa: It swells up.
Jhonny: So I feel like whenever I eat kiwi I get this weird sensation in my tongue, which I'm assuming is an allergy.
Jhonny: It could be something else.
Theresa: No, that seems realistic.
Scot: Yeah. Theresa, you promise kiwi-free recipes?
Theresa: All right. No kiwi.
Scot: Okay. Nayeli or Alex, do you have anything else?
Alex: I won't say allergies. I hate to even say this out loud, but my husband will say this. He will just . . . Anyway, I'm a very picky eater, but I've told myself that I'm really going to be open to this experience. But I sometimes eat like a 5-year-old. Girl dinner, that's me in full force. Like, a piece of toast and peanut butter for dinner. So I will try my best, but I'm excited.
Scot: And I think that's what I said. Let's be honest about this. I think that's where honesty can really help Theresa. If you try something and you're open-minded about it, say what it was that you didn't like, I think, and she could work for us. We're putting her to work for you, Alex, and Jhonny, and Nayeli.
Any other thoughts before we wrap this thing up?
Alex: I'm just hoping my husband doesn't throw out my dinner. That's my only goal here because he does do that.
Theresa: And there might even be some things that your 2-year-old could eat.
Scot: Okay. Wow.
Theresa: Just saying.
Scot: You've got a lot of confidence, Theresa.
Theresa: I do.
Scot: Nayeli, final thought before we wrap this up?
Nayeli: I'm really excited just to try something new. So I'm really looking forward to it.
Jhonny: May the odds be ever in our favor. Does that work? No?
Jhonny: I trust Theresa. Myself, I don't know.
Scot: All right. Theresa?
Theresa: Yeah, I am really excited for this. I am up for the challenge. This is going to be a fun group. And yeah, I think the biggest thing is the more we can approach this with an open mind to maybe try some new things, that's exciting. Hopefully, I can find the balance of pairing some new stuff with some old stuff and try some deliciousness.
Scot: All right. Really looking forward to this podcast as well. Looking forward to recipe number one.
If you're listening and you want to take the challenge, be sure to subscribe to the podcast, and then join us next week for Episode 1 and all the episodes afterward.
You can also follow our challenge on social media, on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or you can email us if you have a comment or a thought at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We really look forward to having you as part of the "4-Week Make More Meals at Home Challenge."
- Side Quest: Four New Thanksgiving Recipes
- E6: Savoring Success
- E5: Vietnamese-Inspired Turkey Meatball Rice Bowls
- E4: Unconventional Enchiladas
- E3: Roasted Chicken Challenge, Brussels Sprouts, and an Ancient Grain
- E2: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili with Cornbread
- Trailer: The 4-Week Make Your Own Meals Challenge