Back to Basics, Nutrition Rule #10

Rule 10: COOK

This is probably the most important rule of nutrition, at least in my opinion. To be clear, my definition of cooking does not include opening a box of Kraft “Dinner.” That’s not cooking. That’s boiling and stirring. Cooking means taking whole ingredients and making them into something edible.

WHY:

-You control what goes into your food. You can choose to leave out the preservatives, use healthier oils and fats, reduce the sodium, or add more vegetables.  You are no longer a “Zombie eater,” which is what I call folks who mindlessly eat whatever they happen to be driving by at the time they decide they’re hungry.

-Almost anything you make at home is healthier than fast food, and even most restaurant food. It’s actually difficult to replicate the number of calories in a McDonald’s sandwich. You actually have to work hard to get that many calories in there, not to mention all the crap you can’t pronounce .  Making a burger with all the fixin’s at home will not only save you potentially hundreds of calories per meal, but the calories you do eat are far more likely to contain something resembling vitamins or minerals.

-You appreciate food more when you cook it yourself. So do children, so have them help in the kitchen. One of the easiest ways to get kids to eat healthy is to have them help select food items and put them together into something edible. It helps build a healthier relationship with food, making it a more integral part of life than just the act of consuming. And, this can lead to healthier choices and food preferences.

HOW

-If you’ve never cooked anything in your life, take a basic cooking class if you can. It’s worth the money, which you’ll save in short order once you stop eating out.

-If you have the basic skills of picking out food (what produce is ripe, what meat is lean, etc.), cutting and chopping, simmering, sauteeing, etc., then invest some time in reading cookbooks (you can get them from the library, and either just photocopy or write down what you want to try–if you like enough of the recipes, buy the book). Or, use quality sites like epicurious.com,  VegetarianTimes.com, or others that fit your lifestyle. Work on a collection of recipes you and your family will eat, and put them in a binder.

-Start small. Cook a few nights a week, and add nights as you find recipes. Start with easy, quicker recipes. As your skill develops, you can add more complicated recipes. Unless you love doing dishes, start with some good one-pot meals or crockpot meals. Start with inexpensive ingredients, like legumes, whole wheat pastas, or in-season vegetables. That way, if you totally muck it up (and we all do sometimes), it won’t be as big a deal. Work your way to more expensive ingredients as you gain confidence in your skills

-Plan for it. Each night, look at what you’re going to eat the next day. See, this is where the Meal Planning rule come  in! Take a moment each evening to get things out of the freezer, set up the crockpot, or anything else that requires a little preparation.

-Just do it. Like most things in life, getting good at cooking requires practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at things like determining how long a particular recipe will take to make, or what time you should put the rice on so it is done when your chicken comes out of the oven.

And, that’s the end of the series. There are a lot of smaller “rules,” and there are a lot of paths to a healthier lifestyle. Start simply, and see what works for you. Educate yourself, make your health a priority, and enjoy your food. The rest will follow.

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2 responses to “Back to Basics, Nutrition Rule #10

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