As a nutritionist, I am often asked “what is the most important tip you can give for healthy eating?”
My answer: “Get in the kitchen and cook!”
Sounds simple and vague. But, is it really? Let’s think about it. What goes into cooking for yourself? What are the benefits?
First of all, you have to plan and prepare. You have to consider what makes up a healthy meal, choose a recipe or think up your own creation, make a list of ingredients, find those ingredients, determine your plan of attack and follow through. You have to INVEST in the meal.
Naturally, you will probably, if not definitely, use REAL, WHOLE ingredients! You may even know exactly where your food came from – the local farm perhaps. No preservatives, chemical additives or fancy processing is required in a home cooked meal. You can take pride in knowing that you are providing you and your family with quality, nutrient-dense foods.
Cooking your own meal allows you to, literally, connect with your food. It’s a hands on approach that hopefully gives you are a greater appreciation and respect for your food. Personally, I no longer mind that the meals I spend quite a bit of time preparing are gone in a flash. It’s worth it! The whole process is more rewarding now. I love the freshness, the creations, and the reduced food waste!
You are also setting a good example for your children and/or those around you. It’s an opportunity to talk about real food verses processed food, and how we can seek out more local options. Including your children, or those you live with, in the process (picking recipes, shopping, and cooking) opens up many doors for exploration of a healthy lifestyle. It may not feel so on a day to day basis, but the influence is there.
Cooking time can also be family time! Given the hustle of daily life, it’s important to slow down from time to time and a spend a moment with those you love. What better way to do so than plan, cook and eat a meal together?! A family that eats together stays together.
Better health, greater awareness, being a positive influence, and quality family or social time are all great reasons to “get in the kitchen and cook.”
Throughout our recent, local ‘Paleo’ Challenge, I’ve talked to a handful of people that have experienced many of the above points. It thrills me to hear people share their stories of trying new foods, experimenting with new recipes and getting their families involved because it means they are spending more time in the kitchen and connecting with their food.
I’m certainly not saying that each meal needs to become a homemade event. But, anytime you can prepare your own dish, you will reap many benefits, both directly and indirectly.
What are some of your own experiences? Has trying or adopting a paleo/primal way of eating increased your time spent in the kitchen? For better or worse? Share your comments below.