Tip #9: Get Cooking
I have very fond memories with my family around the dinner table, so Maria-Paula's The family that eats together, stays toghether! post really rang true with me. My upbringing was a bit like the Brady Bunch without the maid. My mom, who had 3 children, married my stepfather who also had 3 children. I was the youngest (“Cindy,” if you’re at least as old as I am and watched the show – and if you’re not – it was a very popular show in the 70’s and Cindy was the youngest of the six children). Even with my mom working full-time as a real estate agent, she managed to cook dinner every night. Many great conversations were in the kitchen when the meal was being prepared. I still remember that canary yellow appliance set that was so popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Yuck!
In order to have a family meal, ideally you will cook it yourself. Home meals have a tendency to be healthier. You also know what is exactly going into your food, you know firsthand how it is prepared and - ---it is cheaper! These are great reasons. But I would argue one of the best reasons to get in the kitchen is investing in your family.
I believe that this word cluster that is in my kitchen sums up much of the feelings around food. You know that I can talk all day about the nutrition benefits of cooking your own meal. However, memories you make around food will stay with you forever. We know also know that children that are raised in families that cook variety are better at eating a variety of foods. It is all about exposure.
Here are some main reasons why you must C-O-O-K:
C is for Cheaper. Eating meals at home is cheaper. If you Google this topic, you will actually see many journalists attempting to shatter this fact, but I have personally proved that it is true time and time again. I love the piece that Mark Bittman did in the New York Times a few years ago where he compared a popular fast food restaurant bill with a healthy meal at home for 4 people. Coincidentally, that same year I had shared some ways to eat healthy on a budget on our local Dallas NBC-affiliate. In this interview, I emphasized the need to shop sales and plan meals that have similar ingredients to decrease food waste. We are all trying to maximize our dollar, and one of the best ways you can decrease your monthly budget is by eating more home cooked meals – and their leftovers. I love the tips that are provided on the MyPlate website that discuss ways to eat healthy on a budget, which includes a 7-day menu plan. There are so many suggestions and ideas here – be sure to check this section out!
O is for Opportunities to bond. I am all about multi-tasking with the limited time I have day in and day out. Why not use the meal preparation time as a time to bond with your loved ones? Most of us spend the weekdays apart and this is a great time to catch-up on the day. If I look back through the years, I remember some great kitchen time with family and friends. In this day and age of technology overload, families connecting in the kitchen is a very refreshing thought. It does NOT have to be complicated. In fact, it’s much less complicated when more than one person is doing the cooking. You work together as a team, which stands as a symbol outside the kitchen.
These quotes are some of my favorite about cooking:
“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.” Julia Child
“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” Craig Claiborne, Kitchen Primer
“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.” Paul Theroux
“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility.” Shauna Niequist
O is for Offering a Healthy Meal. Your food at restaurants are chocked full of salt and fat, which are easy ways to flavor food. Salt and fat are what you will get too much of when you eat out – and those are two things you can easily control at home. You can also maximize the balance of a meal – making sure you get your lean protein, whole grain, low-fat dairy and lots of produce with every meal you eat. Home meals can be much healthier when done creatively with free use of spicing and cooking methods.
K is for Kitchen skills. The only way to increase your kitchen skills is by getting in there and playing around. That is what I love about cooking vs. baking – most recipes are very forgiving. If you have younger children, this is a vital part of their learning to be an adult. And just like anything else in life, they will do what you do – not what you tell them to do. If you cook meals, they are more likely to cook meals when they are on their own. Do you need some training? If so, there are many local cooking schools that have classes for novices. My favorite book on cooking basics is from the one and only, Julia Child, entitled, The Way to Cook. For something more current, I am also a big fan of the new Cooking School publication that was released by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen. You can always spend some time on YouTube and watch other people cook as a way of developing your skills! I actually do this and get some great ideas.
My son, Evan, learning how to dice onions using a safe chopper tool.
Some of the recipes resources to consider:
Food & Nutrition Magazine
The Lean Green Bean Blog
Kids Eat Right
More Healthy Homestyle Cooking: Family Favorites You’ll Make Again and Again
The Six O’Clock Scramble books and meal newsletter
Meal Makeover Moms
How often are you cooking right now? If it is less than 2 times per week, I would like to challenge you to do more. For motivation, look at your bank account and look at how much you spend on eating out! What is keeping you from cooking? If it is time, there are so many great resources for ways to cook with limited time. I could easily use that excuse, but I choose to cook efficiently and use minimal ingredients during the week.
Are you a solo cook, or are you actively sharing in the cooking experience with others? I am telling you – you have not fully taken advantage of cooking if you the lone ranger in the kitchen. Share in the experience. We all need this reminder of the benefits of cooking. Me included. So let's do this together. Let's get cooking!
March is National Nutrition Month! We have committed to do 14 blog posts that tackle an important topic in food and nutrition. To see all the posts we have done including some from previous years, click on “National Nutrition Month” under blog category.