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 cook…
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.