One of the best ways to gain control of your diet, whether you are dealing with a chronic disease or want to lose weight, is to cook more meals at home. To get you started on the right track, here is a short list of items that are essential tools for your kitchen.

The right tools make cooking at home easier

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As the holiday season and beginning of the year approaches, many people start thinking about New Year's resolutions and you may be starting to focus on your health again. One of the best ways to gain control of your diet, whether you are dealing with a chronic disease or want to lose weight, is to cook more meals at home. Cooking at home allows you to regulate what and how much you are eating. To get you started on the right track, here is a short list of items that are essential tools to help you cook more meals at home.

1. Chef's Knife
The chef's knife is the work horse of the kitchen and will certainly be used to prep vegetables as you aim to make more nutrient dense meals. Although it can be a luxury to have specialty knives like a paring knife or boning knife, you can complete the same tasks with care with a chef's knife. There are so many types of chef's knives with lots of different features so do some research! One of the most important things to consider is the shape of the handle so try out different types in the store to see what works best for you. Overall, you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to find a good quality knife.

Safety Tip: Don't open can's/jar's with your knife; not only is it bad for the blade, but it's dangerous and you can seriously injure yourself and anyone nearby.

2. Cutting board.
Just as important as having a good chef's knife, having a good cutting board is essential. Using a cutting board can help maintain the sharpness of the blade, but also protect your counter surfaces and is important for food safety. A plastic cutting board is easiest to sanitize and is best for the blade. Getting the largest board that your budget and storage allows will provide adequate space to work on without food falling off.

3. Sauté pan and Sauce pot
Sauté pans are great for cooking anything from vegetables to meats; the trick is to use only a small amount of fat while cooking to avoid excess calories. A sauce pot is good for making homemade soups, stews or stocks. Although it may be tough to spend a little bit more on quality items, they will last much longer and save you money in the long run.

Pro Tip: Buy sauté pans that are oven safe that way you can transfer food directly from the stove top to the oven for baking without having to change pans.

4. Measuring cups and spoons
Measuring cups and spoons are important tools to ensure you can follow a recipe and make the dish correctly. Look for recipes that include calorie and serving size information and use the correct measurements so you can stick to calorie or portion size goals.

Tip: Invest in both liquid and dry measuring cups; they are not interchangeable.

Go out and conquer your kitchen!

Bio: Jacki Adams is an inpatient registered dietitian nutritionist at Sentara RMH Medical Center. Jacki is a graduate of James Madison University and has over 15 years of experience in the food service industry. She enjoys encouraging patients to find new and creative ways to get back in the kitchen to make healthy meals.