Confession time. I was doing a consult with a woman the other day, explaining that in my opinion one of the most imperative, and often over-looked, requirements to eating healthy is getting back in the kitchen. To this she said, ‘yes, but it’s easy to eat healthy when you love cooking.’ I looked behind me, assuming she must be talking to someone else. You see I’m a nutritionist and I don’t absolutely love cooking. Cooking has become an acquired taste.
Food Preparation – A Non-Negotiable
In the past, we spent hours preparing food: planting, harvesting, preserving, raising animals or hunting was the first step. Making the food from the ‘raw materials’ was the next step. Hours were spent in the kitchen since processed food was not an option. These chores and tasks were a part of our daily life and routines–they were as non-negotiable as getting up and going to work is for us 21st century folks. Since cooking and food preparation has become a negotiable many of us have even convinced ourselves that ‘we just don’t have time’ and have deferred to processed food.
First, we need to make the time and then we need to find a way to want to make the time.
While I never hated cooking, I never leaped to the kitchen with joy. Sometimes I would get in the mood–just as many of us find ourselves in the mood to clean up, but I never enjoyed cooking regular meals. I have always been passionate about the therapeutic aspect of food, but cooking was the part of the ‘job’ I disliked. My husband on the other hand is an amazing chef. For him, mixing herbs, spices and creating stews and sauces is an ‘art’. Everything I know about the science and the art of cooking is from him. He cooked three quarters of our meals when my daughter was younger, busier and fussier and I was exhausted from an undiagnosed health condition.
When my health took a turn for the worst, it was evident that multiple food intolerances would mean that I would have to seriously change my ‘diet’. Part of that meant foregoing my hubby’s rich, delicious, but not always healthy food. Returning to the kitchen became a non-negotiable. I started weaving in time to prepare lunches, cook clean meals, prep snacks and clean desserts for the week because I didn’t expect anyone else to cater or eat around my food restrictions.
The Joy or Chore of Cooking – Get Inspired
Usually I suggest to clients to go slow; layer each new habit one week or month at a time so you do not become overwhelmed and quit before you have started. At first, both my restrictive diet and cooking seemed like nothing short of a chore. I was eating bland, ‘healthy’ food; I had not yet learned the art of making healthy food, delicious. No wonder cooking was uninspiring.
I started feeling deprived and resentful that everyone else could eat ‘normal’. I had difficulty sticking with the foods that didn’t make me sick or cause pain–I would often binge after weeks of restriction. I was determined to find a way to enjoy food and the process of making it.
Thus began my cookbook purchasing addiction. I bought everything from Diane San Filippo’s ‘Practical Paleo’ to Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ and soon learned I could eat healthy without feeling like I was depriving myself. I began baking grain-free muffins, making up protein balls each week, preparing healthy alternatives to winter-time ‘comfort food’, chopping vegetables so that they were ‘ready-to-go’, mixing up clean desserts and playing with healthy versions of movie-night snacks. Suddenly, I found myself enjoying my time in the kitchen. Preparing and eating healthy, delicious food was bliss after starving for ‘soul food’ for so long.
What’s Your Cooking Style?
One of the easiest ways to get back in the kitchen is to find your cooking style. Once you find your cooking style, meal prep time will feel less painful. Becoming conscious of what sets you in the mood to cook, why you like cooking sometimes and not others, and what type of food you like to cook is an important place to start. Next week I will outline the different cooking styles in order to help you determine the easiest route to ‘returning to the kitchen’ with as much pleasure as possible.