Some people will argue that cooking is what makes us humans. The ability to prepare food using fire or heat is the key. Archaeological and anthropological research on cooking shows that the act of cooking allowed early humans the freedom to spend more with friends and family, and less time digesting and eating a raw food diet. Eating cooked food was an efficient way to use calories and in turn caused early brains to increase. Although our early human friends gathered around a fire, in our modern world, access to cooking has become difficult and often very daunting.
As a registered dietitian, I work with clients, to help them find simple ways around their source of heat or “fire’. Igniting the passion for cooking and providing tips that allow us to stay in control and engaged with meal planning and preparation.
For some, cooking just sounds like a lot of work. If you keep things simple, cooking can be one of the most enjoyable activities and essential life skill.
There is plenty of research to support that eating home cooked meals leads to better health outcomes. According to a study conducted at Harvard University, families that eat together every day or most days had higher intake of nutrients such as calcium, fiber, iron, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Here are a few simple tips to make cooking a part of your life:
- Plan. Plan. Plan— meal planning is essential. Think of your week and make a list of meals to prepare. Get buy-in from family members.
- For the Planner- make a shopping list based on your meal plan. Do not be left without those pesky ingredients. Increase your motivation by having everything on hand when you are ready to prepare your meal.
- For the Non-Planner- trust in your spontaneous intuition to prepare a meal with ingredients you have on hand.
- Most importantly… create a list of staples for your pantry and refrigerator. It is easier to prepare a meal by adding only a few ingredients than prepare a meal with missing ingredients or very little to work with in terms of staple ingredients (i.e., meats, grains, legumes, canned goods).
- Keep it simple and use recipes. Try 1 new recipe every week to help prevent getting into a cooking ‘rut’.
- Experiment with fresh herbs and spices. Help remove the bland from your cooking regime. Add a dash of spice to your life.
- Have fun! Make cooking fun. Have breakfast for dinner; a picnic breakfast, and enjoy time preparing simple meals.
Cooking is a practice as much as it is an art. Take time and be patient with yourself, you do not have to be a contestant on Master Chef or a gourmet cook.
Make it simple. Choose fresh ingredients and eat to please your palate and senses.
Pina Boatwright, MS, RD, CHES, RYT