Throughout my time as a coach, one of the things that I see often is clients coming in wanting to feel generally healthier, but they have no idea where to start. Typically, the "easiest" way to physically triage your health-that is, make and feel healthy changes as quickly as you can-is to focus on the physical actions you can DO. IE focus on your nutrition and movement. Obviously, if it was that simple and that easy I would not have a job. Frankly, most of my job is remembering that it is NOT easy and any change that a person takes on will require a variable amount of time, energy, effort, prior skills, probably some money and possibly the right environment at the very minimum. Today I am delving into nutrition and specifically eating and cooking in a healthy way at home.
I'm seeing that many of my clients who come in feeling lost in their health and their abilities to make changes, also feel lost in the kitchen. I am finding that many people have seemingly lost (or never gained) the ability to cook for themselves. Many equate "healthy eating" with either elaborate and expensive recipes or with the basic and bland chicken+rice+vegetable combination and ultimately feel uninspired and blocked in this area.
It's no wonder either. Since the invention of the T.V. dinner and the revolution of the fast food industry, health concerns such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease have been on the rise. And now with the addition of apps such as, Grubhub and Door Dash, we can quite literally get ANYTHING delivered straight to our door. Meals that used to be reserved for occasions and "eat out" night are now regular players in our daily diets. For the millenial and Gen Z generations(the bulk of my coaching clientele), for much of our lives, these conveniences have been present. Coupled with over scheduled parents and just as over scheduled youth, the eat at home skill is slowly disappearing. Food manufacturers are becoming hip to this as well. Processing foods so that they require little to no kitchen prowess at all, outside of a microwave and the ability to read.
Not to get too conspiracy theorist on us, but we do live in a capitalist society. Plain and simple; money talks and money is what fuels business decisions and innovations. Food producers, especially processed food manufacturers(PFM) don't want you cooking whole food based meals made from scratch. There is no money in that for them. They want you relying on processed foods for the bulk of your meals and most of us are. I don't mean to vilify PFM. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with eating these types of foods. As long as we are striving for balance, I believe they can have a place in an overall healthy diet. However, I do think it's in our own best interest to have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to big business in general. Marketing and advertising is just that. Even if their commercial makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, these businesses aren't really that concerned with the convenience of your meals and your family being able to spend more quality time together. Plain and simple, they just want you to spend your money on their product.
So, how do we take back our power in the kitchen and begin cooking for ourselves?
An undertaking which might be made harder for some that may have never learned the basics to begin with. Well, the good news is that whole foods are still around and technology has made finding recipes and different approaches to cooking easier than ever to achieve. Here are a few ideas of how to begin your cooking at home exploration.
Commit to a certain number of new recipes per week.
As with any health change, smaller is better here. Go for 1-2 meals if you are not cooking or preparing much of anything. More if you make a few meals a week already, but want to push for more. I recommend picking specific days that will be "cooking days". Don't just wait to get inspired to cook, because it may never show up! Also, if you put off cooking for too long, you'll be left with a lot of old ingredients that are past their prime-not so appetizing!
Sign up for a basics cooking class.
For my readers who are KC locals, check out JCCC and MCC and inquiry about their non-credit classes for adults. Most cities(at least here in the metro) have one, if not several community centers that offer classes as well. Our (almost) post Covid life has also blessed us with basically every type of course in an online form, so if you can't find one locally-Google is your friend!
Sign up for a meal delivery service.
I've talked about this before and I truly think they are great for removing a lot of the things that hold us back from cooking for ourselves such as; researching and finding a recipe that you will like, going shopping and acquiring ALL the ingredients, as well as the unknown of how long it will take. Yes they can be expensive, but for most people I coach they are already spending that much or a lot more on take out, than these services cost.
Focus on simple recipes first with minimal and easily accessible ingredients.
As touched on above, there is nothing worse(well thats not true, there are worse things obviously) than being excited about a recipe and then only being able to find half the ingredients at one store. Ain't nobody got time for multiple stops for one meal-AM I RIGHT? So, set yourself up for success! If you want to try out a wild new recipe, have a simple backup as well-just in case.
Have a weekly cooking date
Cook with your significant other to learn together and have something to do. Cooking together takes patience and teamwork and when you are done you have a literal end result from your effort together, win-win! If you have kids, make it a family activity!
This is the best way to introduce a healthy view of food and cooking skills early on. Explore different themes and cooking approaches to keep it interesting.
Begin to create a list of kitchen essentials.
Figure out what items that you want to have on hand all the time. These are crucial for times when maybe you didn't plan well or burned your original recipe(no shame, it happens!) These are also helpful when you aren't feeling a full blown recipe. Some of my essentials I always have on hand are canned black beans and chickpeas, 90 second brown rice and various vegetable steamer bags. Pay attention to the things you like and start to create a master list. Refer to your master list before you go grocery shopping.
When you do cook, cook larger!
Cook bigger meals less often, so then you get the nutrient and budget benefits of eating at home without actually having to cook as much.
Let me know how your cook at home journey progresses and if you find my list helpful. Have another idea? Let me know and I'll add it!