Cooking nutrient-dense, whole food at home has been one of the most impactful health and wellness practices I’ve ever developed. The only cravings I have are for my favorite vegetables. The meals I cook are always satisfying and provide balanced energy throughout my day. Plus, I make things just the way I like…so they’re always delicious. I’ve learned that there’s no more important place for me to be than chopping some veggies in my kitchen, preparing to nourish my body. I’ve learned that a simple and elegant place setting with some quiet time is just what I need to enjoy what I’ve created. I’ve learned that I really love cooking at home.
That’s why I want to help you fall in love with cooking at home. In this post we’ll take some time to challenge our current thoughts about cooking at home. We’ll consider building our meals around nutrient dense, whole food. We’ll explore the beauty of simplicity in cooking and we’ll make a plan to enjoy more meals at home with the ones we love.
Tip 1. Challenge Your Current Thoughts
We all know that believing we can accomplish something is the first step to success. And we understand that when we’re unsure, success is much less likely. Social Congnitive Theory (SCT) backs up that thinking with some research. SCT asserts that our thoughts exert a strong influence over our behaviors. When we approach behavior change, like cooking at home more often, it’s important to check our thinking about the behavior and challenge any unproductive thoughts with some good questions.
Following are three common thought patterns around cooking at home and some critical questions to ask ourselves if we recognize them:
- I’m too busy to cook at home
- How do I prioritize healthy home-cooked meals now?
- How do I want to prioritize healthy home-cooked meals going forward?
- What is more important for me to spend my time on?
- What do other busy people do to eat at home more often?
- I hate meal prep and chopping vegetables
- What do I enjoy that I can also make at home?
- Can cooking be simple most of the time?
- Do I have to meal prep, or are there other approaches to cooking at home?
- Cooking at home is expensive
- What is the source of the information? Did you learn it from a commercial or advertisement?
- Can I make a homemade version of some of my favorites and save some money?
- Have I actually compared prices?
- Can I see the value in consuming healthier food over my lifetime?
Tip 2. Consider Using Nutrient Dense, Whole Food
When I began eating a healthier diet, I didn’t start by taking any food out. Instead I added delicious, nutrient-dense, whole food. Whole food is simply food that isn’t processed or refined and has little-to-no artificial flavors, additives or preservatives. Think about an apple vs. a store bought apple sauce, or chicken breast vs. a chicken nugget. The whole food I consumed delivered the vital nutrients my body craved, an important part of feeling full and satisfied, while the natural flavors felt like a deep indulgence. Knowing I was investing in my long-term health was the cherry on top.
When we focus our meals on whole food, getting essential nutrients like vitamin, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, water, and fiber gets a whole lot easier. Because we’re giving our bodies what they are actually asking for, cravings for less healthy options diminish and we’re less likely to over eat. Let’s not forget to mention overall health improvement and regression of disease as a major benefit.
Tip 3. Make a Plan
Take some time to create a shopping list template. This list should work as your individualized guide to healthy shopping. You don’t need to buy all the items at each shopping trip, but most of your regular purchases should come from your predetermined list. When making your list, focus on including whole nutrient, dense food; think vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy carbohydrate and fats, and lean protein.
Consider the following categories for your list.
- Vegetables and greens
- Beef, poultry, and seafood
- Nuts and Seeds
- Grains and Dairy
- Herbs and Spices
4. Keep it Simple
I’m a big fan of eating healthy and cooking at home, but I’m also a minimalist, so keeping it simple is essential to enjoying the process and keeping it sustainable. In our 3rd tip we discussed creating and using a grocery shopping list template. The idea is that you take time when you’re in a goal oriented space to identify all the nutritious and delicious food you want to be part of your regular diet. The list then works as your individualized guide to healthy grocery shopping and meal planning. Creating and maintaining your list will cut down dramatically on deciding which healthy meals to make because you’ve already decide.
Another strategy to keep things simple is using minimal ingredients. It only takes a little salt, pepper, and olive oil to make the perfect roasted asparagus. My favorite soup recipe, a broccoli and kale chicken soup I’ve share on my website, is a great example of how just a few herbs and spices can make a nutritious and satisfying meal. If you’ve forgotten just how simple delicious cooking can be, check out a few of the search topics below.
- 10 Minute Meals
- Easy egg breakfast
- Simple herb and spice combinations
- Meals you can make in 20 minutes
5. Share a Meal with Someone you Love
Now that you’re ready to make more healthy meals at home, let’s exponentially increase the benefits by sharing with someone you love. Everyone knows that one of the best ways to show some love is to share a meal; but did you know it’s also one of the best ways to feel some love. When we devote our time, energy, and efforts to creating a nutritious meal for someone, we often get back more than we’ve shared. Cooking a nutritious meal for a loved one is a chance to be creative and make ourselves proud. It’s a chance for some face to face interaction and good conversation. It’s a chance for healthy habit success.