+ Well Nourished ⎮The single most important thing you can do to improve your health

The single most important thing you can do to improve your health

I’ve been a Naturopath for over 20 years and during this time I have witnessed a growing disconnect and confusion about food how it fits into our lives. SO many people I meet have absolutely no connection to food, no passion or interest in either preparing or sharing it. So I’m going to say it right up – the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and the health of your loved ones is to cook as much of what you eat as possible, from scratch.

I really don’t want to lecture you into the kitchen, I’d rather lure you with the prospect of deliciousness and connectedness. I hope you find this post inspiring…

When cooking became optional…
Cooking is now sadly completely optional (in the past if we didn’t cook, we didn’t eat). The food processing industry has given us options that means we don’t have to cook, to eat. They have also conveniently led us to believe that cooking is hard, time consuming and messy and we’d be so much better off letting them cook for us or create shortcuts. Remember they have a vested interest in destroying our food culture because the less we (and subsequent generations) cook, the more money they make.

However food corporations cook completely differently to us using ingredients we would never use. We don’t make a casserole and think, oh I’ll just add some monosodium glutamate to this or some high fructose corn syrup. The food they make is not designed to serve our bodies well, end of story. It is produced using the cheapest ingredients, put together in the quickest possible way so that they can make the most money possible. It’s all about the bottom line. Statistically, as the time we spend cooking reduces, rates of obesity and disease increases.

Look at one staple in the Western diet – bread. It is no longer fermented for 36 hours before it is baked, it is not fermented at all, rather made to rise with a cocktail of chemicals designed by scientists with no mind for our health. To read more about the healthiest choices in bread click here.

Just this week I was watching TV and saw an ad for a meal delivery service to help people loose weight (and subsequently got a bee in my bonnet). It was a mum promoting how much better her life had become since ordering their pre-cooked meals and that since doing so, she now had ‘so much more time to spend with her kids’. I had to wonder then what her kids ate and what kind of message this sent to them about food? In my mind, cooking for one or four takes no more time. Also sharing food with my family is one of my greatest pleasures. I believe as a parent, we are obliged to teach our kids everything they need to know to nourishing their bodies throughout their lives. They learn so much by just watching us shop and cook food (even more by getting involved a little). Sharing a meal with my kids is an integral learning experience as well as a way to stay connected with them. All kids deserve to learn that real food does not come from a packet or via a window. For more info on why family meals matter so much, click here.

We may not cook, but we love to watch others…
Another thing that flabbergasts me is that as we spend less and less time actually ‘cooking’ for ourselves and our family, the more time many people are spending watching other people cook on TV or across social media. There’s something that draws us to cooking and these shows or social media accounts. I love the observation that food author Michael Pollan made that “Perhaps our obsession with cooking is because we all have powerful memories of being cooked for – that act of generosity and love demonstrated when someone cooks for us is hard to forget, food memories are alive and well in all of us, even those who no longer cook.”

But you don’t have time to cook…
How much more unfortunate can a society get, than to lose it’s basic knowledge and desire to cook. One of the most common excuses I hear for not cooking and eating well is ‘I don’t have the time’. I always reframe that to ‘you don’t make food / your health a priority’. Time is a choice. We are all given the same amount of time in a day and many of us use some of that time to cook for our families.

To break it down. There are 168 hours in a week. 56 hours we sleep (@8 hours per night). 40 hours we work (on average). Which leaves 72 hours for other things (about 10.5 hours per day). There is enough time to cook if you choose to do so!

Everyone can and should cook
The good news is that everyone that can cook, has learned to cook (at some point in their lives). Also anyone who claims they just can’t cook, can learn. I assure you, it’s not difficult, messy or time consuming.

It’s my absolute greatest feeling of achievement when I received feedback that the work I do at Well Nourished has helped someone to learn to love to cook. A lady recently wrote that where she once hated cooking, with the help of my recipes she had learned to love it (and better still even her hubby was impressed and on board). She finished by saying ‘Who knew healthy eating was so do-able, and delicious!” – one of those heart bursting with pride moments reading that email!

If you don’t already cook for your family I hope you can learn to cook, not because you have to, but because it is SO satisfying. Also I believe ‘healthy’ foods are so much more enjoyable when you can eat them for pleasure rather than obligation. I endeavour to make the recipes I share here and in my ebooks are easy as possible, with easy to find, everyday ingredients and as few ‘steps’ in the method as possible (and super delicious of course).

If you are new to cooking, start with following simple recipes and as your confidence grows, branch out to more complex dishes. Once you’ve nail a dish, next time you make it, cook double and freeze half for a time when you need ‘convenience food’.

Making ‘healthy choices’ is very simple
I’ve worked really hard here at Well Nourished to strip away guilt and confusion around food and making healthy choices. A basic rule of thumb for knowing if you are making the right food choices on behalf of yourself and your family is to ask yourself ‘is the food a product of nature or industry?’ – I’d would of course choose for nature to feed me any day of the week. If the focus of what you and your family eats is real, unprocessed food, it doesn’t mean it will always be a perfect, nutritionally balanced meal, but its REAL food, then you’re in a pretty good place.

This post was inspired by a documentary by Michael Pollan called “Cooked”. It’s just brilliant and on Netflix at the moment if you are keen.

Now over to you – Do you cook? Do you have any advice to help others develop a love of cooking too? I’d love you to post a comment below to help me to lure more people into the kitchen. 

All of the content here at Well Nourished is FREE to assist you to be the healthiest you can be.  But you can help me to build a healthier world, please  Share this post with a friend.

You can also support my work by purchasing my ebook “Rise and Shine” – more details HERE or “The Well Nourished Lunchbox” – more details HERE. Also check out my latest ebook ” Sides and Salads” HERE.

  • Tina Herden

    One of the biggest life changes for me and my family was the purchase of a thermomix. I am not a rep and get nothing back for saying this but the thermomix has brought me back into the kitchen. Good wholesome food, made easily with real ingredients.

    • Agree it is a fabulous, time saving device that’s for sure. G x

  • Thanks for your comment Sally. I feel our growing disconnect is also cultural – from the time kids start school in Australia (and many other part of the world) they are not set boundaries to sit and eat their lunch with their friends (instead they run around and play and often forgo lunch altogether). I really wish they were given time to eat, then play after. I think even their learning would benefit too G x

  • Leah

    10.5hrs per day of availability, less 2-3hrs travel time to & from work & school/kindy drop-off & pickup, less 2 hrs bathing & dressing of oneself & children, less 1.5hrs of swimming lessons/sport/tutoring/music, less 1hr of laundry, less 1hr of cleaning/tidying, less 1hr of homework/reading & getting kids to bed, leaves 2hrs available for cooking all these meals from scratch you’re “not lecturing” at people to do. Keep in mind the window of getting these meals ready is in between getting home & the kids melting down – approx 20mins (don’t forget to feed the dogs too). After cleaning the kitchen, there’s one hour left. With all my leftover mental & physical energy, sure, why not spend it on my feet in the kitchen. Oops, forgot to pay those waiting bills….and there’s something else I had to do…..oh, spend time with my hubby.
    I’d say most people do the best they can. Don’t belittle by saying it’s a “choice”. Yes, it’s a choice amongst many other “choices” that we all have to juggle.
    You’re lucky that your job involves thinking about food & meals, most don’t have that luxury.
    By all means, encourage and explain the benefits of cooking, but without the side of condescension.

    • I’m really sorry you feel this post is condescending Leah, it was never my intention.
      I, along with many other mums juggling our many obligations in a day, totally understand that life is busy and often overwhelming. That’s why I work so hard to promote simple healthy habits and kitchen shortcuts (like cooking in bulk and freezing) because lets face it, none of us can afford to spend to much time in the kitchen or have the time to get sick. I really hoped to inspire, not upset anyone so apologies for doing so. G x

    • KG

      @Leah
      I’m a busy dad and often have a similar schedule. For me it’s about priorities. It’s tough to make the transition, but is your health and your family’s health worth it? Also important to think long term. You may all seem healthy now, but if you’re regularly eating stuff that our bodies are not designed to work with, eventually this will take its toll. Baby steps are an option. Choose a day a week to start cooking a bit more, even just one meal – it gets easier the more you do it! After a while you will NEVER want to go back. Do some research on suspect ingredients and you will get all the conviction you need to start the journey and stay on it. All the best : )
      Great site Georgina – love your recipes and your message really hits home with me.

      • Great advice KG – it can be overwhelming, especially when you are snowed under to get your head around , cheers!

  • Great suggestion Kat, they sound fantastic – thanks for contributing, i really appreciate it G x

  • Ings

    Congratulations Georgia on a great article- I agree with everything you have said and I am enjoying the discussion. With a toddler and a baby and working I have found it very hard to cook each day. It is not perfect but I am not discouraged- I keep focusing on trying to be organised and finding time when I can cook in the week eg. batch cooking on a Sunday afternoon when kids are playing outside with dad. A thermomix helps too! I want my family to be healthy (I am horrified about what goes into packaged foods) and for my children to see me cooking and eventually be involved and learn these important life skills for themselves.

    • Thanks for your contribution Ings – I agree, batch cooking/ baking helps me spend less time in the kitchen too (and agree, the TMX helps enormously) G x

  • I’m sure you do understand time pressures Erika with 4 little ones and good on you for just cooking – as I said, doesn’t mean it’s always perfect, but you are cooking sometimes and your kids are seeing you cook. My greatest inspiration is my mother in law. She had 7 kids in 8 years (good Irish catholic family), she worked as a nurse part time (her hubby was a busy police sergeant) and no family near by. She cooked all their meals – she taught me early on how to manage my time without burning out and I’m lucky to have such an amazing role model. She’s not someone I can moan to that I’m busy ha ha! Gx

  • You’re very welcome and thrilled you enjoy my site and books. It is a juggle, but worth it I believe G x

  • Brigitte James

    Brilliant. I did a happy dance as I read this. I know I sometimes get ‘lazy’ but all in all, I love cooking from scratch and I TRY not to use ready made sauces or packaged products to throw in. I love cooking, although my partner does a majority of the cooking as he’s a chef but still likes to keep the ‘yuck’ stuff that’s not good for our bodies to a minimum (thankfully) … I know SOME chef’s don’t even take that into consideration! I LOVE reading your posts. I have a lot that I follow but I ALWAYS find myself reading yours as they’re more along the line of what I believe – wholesome … And to a point, rustic, rather than “new age”, if you get my drift. I LOVE your recipes. They’re so much more real and you give options, and even reading this, I do know I can make a few small changes. You keep me on track. I’ll be sharing! Thank you again for the passion you put into this blog. 🙂

  • Samantha Nagle

    I think you are correct about everyone wanting to see food as if it is some kind of art form. I do understand though why people struggle to cook as many people are time poor. I think the problem is that there are way too many complicated recipes out there. People assume that you need to have so much time to create these fancy recipes. For me I love to read recipes and create my own. I love cooking and it has become my favourite hobby. I used to make high fat baking recipes, now I create recipes using ingredients that are healthy and low in sugar and fat. It makes me feel amazing when I see my kids eating the foods that I create that are nutritious and healthy. I think I have trained their tastebuds to love good food. Keep posting these inspirational posts. P.S Love the chocolate chip cookies recipe. Am going to pass this on to a friend.

    • Yes agree Samantha that one thing many of the cooking shows have done – as much as the food looks amazing, it’s not always achievable to the average person. It’s wonderful that you love cooking, I know that everyone has this available to them and simple food is often the best G x

Kind words…

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