DID YOU KNOW that one of the easiest ways to eat healthy is to cook at home? And when you cook at home you can typically make better choices about what and how much to eat and drink. It can also be fun and a way for you to spend time with the family (USDA, Let’s Move Into the Kitchen), something to surely consider with the holiday season upon us!
In 2003, my graduate school thesis was entitled, Why Cooking Is A Critical Component of Nutrition Education (and of course overall health and well being). My conclusion as a chef and budding nutritionist – if we don’t connect with our food and cook for ourselves, it is highly unlikely that we will get healthy and stay healthy.
I get it. Finding the time and energy to cook can be tough. After a long day of work and homework duties with my kids, sometimes cooking is the last thing I want to do. But I do it, and so can you – and you can have fun while you do it, I promise! After years of working with folks in their kitchens and teaching large groups in hands-on cooking classes, every single person has said, “Stefanie, I didn’t know that cooking could be so much fun!”
So let’s put the fun back into cooking! With these five tips, you can unlock your “kitchen door” and step into real nourishment (with some serious fun and laughter along the way):
- Cook with Company
Share the cooking experience with someone you love – whether it’s a friend or family member. I love to invite my kids to join me in the kitchen, and I enjoy preparing healthy, delicious meals for close friends… in my kitchen or theirs.
- Turn Up the Tunes
Atmosphere is everything. Turn on some good music and groove while you cook. I will often sing and dance while I prepare a meal. It makes cooking feel like the celebration it should be – and I typically urge my students to do the same. For a dreamier atmosphere, create a “culinary spa” by lighting a candle or two!
- Let Your Tools do the Work
Whenever I’m cooking, I make sure I use a good knife (Global is my favorite) and bamboo cutting board. By the way, a sharp knife is faster and safer to use. And my ideal tool of choice is the trusty Cuisinart. The ability to purée, chop, shred, and slice with one machine makes food preparation easier and fun for everyone.
- Simplify Your Meals
A simple way to take the stress out of cooking is to keep it simple. Nutritious can meet delicious with a basic salad, a baked sweet potato, and roasted chicken. Preparation for a meal like this is 10 minutes, max. Cooking time about an hour. Consider these simple, tasty recipes as well—Skillet Broccoli and Cauliflower Cheese Soup, both from What The Fork Are You Eating? And be sure to make extra for storage – fill your culinary bank account and save yourself time and energy the next time you cook.
Share the Food and Fun
People love photos of food! Sometimes it’s easier to appreciate your food when you see it through the eyes of others. When your friends see the delicious and healthy food you’ve created and cheer you on, it can inspire you to do more. Trust me! So point and click while you shop and cook, and post on Instagram. Also, check out Feed Feed, a social media platform that connects people who love to cook or want to learn how to love to cook.
A version of this post first appeared on What The Fork Weekly.
Hear Stefanie’s 2015 interview with Sandi Klein here.