Most people don’t believe me when I say that until six years ago, I had barely set foot in a kitchen. Boxed mac and cheese and slice-and-bake cookies were my staples, but mostly I would make do with a deli salad for lunch and settle on a cringe-worthy dinner of pizza, cheese and crackers or canned soup. I definitely did NOT consider myself a cook. But my desire to eat healthier was so strong that I just got down to business and taught myself how to do it.
Before that point, I had convinced myself I was too busy with work and social events to cook and, besides, I was single, so why bother? Looking back, the real fear was that I had no idea what to do or where to start.
I truly believe that if you want to get control of your health and feel good consistently, you must eat at home more often than you dine out.
A study referenced in the December 2012 issue of Whole Living Magazine found that those trying to lose weight lost 5 pounds more when they cooked at home than those who relied on food from restaurants.
Cooking at home is one of the best things you can do for your health. Not only do you know exactly what ingredients go into your food, which makes it easier to digest, it also saves money.
Today, I teach sold-out cooking classes in New York City to inspire others to get into their kitchen and cook, because if I can do it, anyone can. It doesn’t take hours in the kitchen to make it happen, just a little know-how.
Keep It Simple: From the beginning, my approach has been simple techniques for simple food. This makes the task of cooking much easier to digest.
It sounds cliché but the truth is that the simplest cooking methods like steaming, poaching, boiling and en papillote (in parchment paper) are the best. They bring out the food’s natural flavor and retain most of the nutrients. Learn these basic techniques and a delicious-tasting meal can be yours in minutes.
Invest in the Essentials: With a few basic kitchen gadgets and a simple list of ingredients, you can say goodbye to takeout and frozen meals. Many people let not having a perfect kitchen or fancy utensils stop them from cooking but you don’t need anything special to create a healthy meal. I started eating healthier in my studio apartment with some hand- me-down pots and pans and a cheap plastic blender – like the ones you used to make frozen margaritas in college. I also had a steam basked, a George Foreman Grill and some dull cutting knives – that’s about it.
The more I cooked, the more I added and I’m still buying new utensils, but the truth is, I most often use the simple basics.
Stock Your Pantry: Likewise, if you think making a home-cooked meal means a time-consuming trip to the store, expensive ingredients and slaving over a stove – all after a long day at the office, think again. With the onslaught of grocery delivery services available, you can shop from home or work. And think about this: dining out or food delivery will cost you about $15 per meal (and that’s being conservative). For $15 – $20 worth of ingredients, you can cook once and eat two or three times with leftovers. Think about stocking your pantry with lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens, organic and wild proteins, healthy fats, fiber-rich whole grains and some fresh herbs, spices or healthy condiments like tamari or coconut aminos, both of which can be used like soy sauce. Spend about 30 minutes once per week planning out meals and creating a shopping list in advance so you have a plan for what to buy and how you’ll use it so it doesn’t go to waste.
Know a Few Shortcuts: We all experience times when cooking just isn’t likely to happen, but that doesn’t have to mean you resort to delivery or takeout. One of my favorite time-saving hacks is to turn my fridge into a salad bar. One of the biggest appeals of salad bars is the crisp veggies that are laid out and cut up. You can do the exact same thing — in your refrigerator. When you get your groceries home, slice and dice your produce right away, then store it in individual stay-fresh containers. When you have no plan, you can always throw together a big salad. Just pull everything out of the fridge, assemble your meal, and put it all back where you found it. Cooking in batches is another time-saver. Prepare your beans and whole grains all at one time, store them, and then add them to your meals throughout the week. You can scoop them into salads and soups, make a breakfast porridge with the grains, or layer steamed vegetables in a bowl with beans and grains and top it off with a zesty sauce for an impromptu goddess bowl. You can even freeze any excess if you don’t think you’ll get to it all and then thaw it to use for the following week.
Usually when I start working with a client in my health coaching practice, she tells me that she doesn’t cook because she doesn’t know how, doesn’t like it or doesn’t have time. Somewhere in the middle of our time together, this same client starts cooking just by putting some of these ideas into practice. Cooking for a dinner party of 20 can be stressful, but teach yourself to cook for yourself or your family and it doesn’t have to be, follow my advice to keep it stress-free.
Text adapted from Your Holistically Hot Transformation: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle Free of Dieting, Confusion and Self-Judgment, ©2016 by Marissa Vicario. All rights reserved. Click here to download a FREE copy of Marissa’s eBook, How to Be Holistically Hot.