No, it’s not cutting carbs, weighing out portions, food combining, filling up on water, switching to baked potato chips, or giving up all sweets – although these strategies are great ones for most people.
If you want to get to a healthy weight and stay there, the most important lifestyle change you can make is to get comfortable in your kitchen.
The food I make at home has the nutrients I need. I know how much fat, salt and additives are in it and I can control my portions. Before I consider macronutrients or calories, I think about what, when and how I am going to make my own food for the week.
It’s as simple as that – prepare your own food. And by prepare your own food I don’t mean microwave a frozen diet meal, breakfast burrito or plate of pizza bites. I mean keep a stock of foods that contain only one ingredient (e.g. chicken, eggs, oats, almonds, cheese, rice, potatoes, beans, and any number of the hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables) and assemble them into dishes that you find tasty and appealing.
Recent stats suggest that Americans eat nearly half of their meals outside the home. And what we’re eating inside the home isn’t necessary prepared in our own kitchens. There is a strong correlation between eating convenience food, fast food, packaged and prepared foods and becoming unhealthy and overweight. We can turn this around by cooking and eating at home. We also receive more primary nourishment – that is nourishment for our souls – from sitting down to a freshly prepared meal with people we love than we do grabbing a slice of pizza and eating it in our laps in the car.
Most people I know agree with me that eating fresh, healthful food at home is the ideal. However we need to act on this belief in order to reap the benefits. Since making big changes is scary, a lot of people automatically put up roadblocks on this path to better health. “I don’t have time to cook.” ”I don’t know how to cook.” “I hate cooking.”
Here are some practical suggestions to help these folks over the hump:
“I don’t have time.”
If you think you don’t have the time, then you won’t make the time. This is true. You act on what you believe.
But, if you believe that we make the time for what is important to us, and that exceptional health and fitness is really important, then you will be able to find the time. As countless other fit, healthy and very busy people have done before you.
Where to start? Master some simple recipes and create a core of go-to meal plans. Cooking fresh food does not have to be complicated. I can get a dinner of grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, and baked potato or rice on the table in less than 25 minutes, start to finish.
Get up 10 minutes earlier to make sure that you and the family launch the day with a wholesome breakfast. Make a fruit smoothie, oatmeal, a fruit and yogurt parfait, or scrambled eggs and whole grain toast.
Plan one to two “cooking parties” each week, where you prepare some healthy food in bulk – like a batch of poached chicken, hard-boiled eggs, baked sweet potatoes, brown rice, protein pancakes, tuna salad. Incorporate planned over’s into your week – make a big pot of lean meat sauce, chilli, or marinated chicken. Practice cooking once, so you can eat twice.
“I don’t know how.”
Are you open to learning new things? Did you figure out how to sync your iPod or learn how to use new money management software for your household or business? Did you take lessons in preparation for a honeymoon scuba diving excursion? I bet you can think of a few examples of how you successfully mastered a new task or skill set. You can do the same with cooking – really!
Browse the cookbook section of your favorite bookstore or online store. Get one or two basics – “Healthy Cooking for Busy People.” One of my favorite sources for recipes is Everyday Food magazine. Many of the recipes have 3 or 4 ingredients. There are lots of time saving tips and suggestions for healthy snacks. I highly recommend it.
The Food Network has a variety of cooking programs, including one called “How to Boil Water.” Even more fun, is going to a live cooking class. This would make a great date or a fun activity to do with your kids or a best friend. I have taken classes at my local adult school, community colleges, grocery stores, natural food stores, and cooking schools. A friend once hired a private chef to give a cooking class to a group of friends for a fun ladies’ night.
For many families, cooking is a dying art. Did your mother, father or grandma do the cooking in your house? How about inviting them over and asking them to show you what they know and to pass along one or two cherished family recipes?
“I hate to cook.”
If you hate to cook or break out into hives in the kitchen, you need to either get really, really friendly with someone who will cook for you, or learn how to create a party in the kitchen.
I choose the latter. Whether I am starting the routine of the evening meal or settling in for my Sunday bulk cooking ritual, I always put on some music. Sometimes I choose mellow music and other times high-energy music, depending on my mood. How about Jack Johnson’s “Making Banana Pancakes” on a Sunday morning? Or a little James Brown while you stir-fry?
I also make my kitchen a happy place. I love color, so I’ve got a collection of orange pots, turquoise measuring spoons, purple and fuchsia dishtowels, and a whole rainbow of mixing bowls. I like whimsy, too. How can I not feel cheery when grating Parmesan cheese along the Eiffel Tower or flipping my protein pancakes with a guitar spatula? Oh, and my latest acquisition – an alien lemon juicer!
I love Latin food. I have prints and wall hangings that recall my Mexican heritage. My spoon rest is made of Talavera pottery. A menu board from a Mexican restaurant my uncle owned in the 1970s conjures up fond childhood memories of enjoying my grandmother’s chicken mole enchilada recipe.
Try integrating your favorite things into your cooking space. You may not be into purple and polka dots. Perhaps you are a techie and have a thing for stainless steel and gadgets. Do you have a favorite sports team? A love of travel? You might look forward to cooking if it means using your Yankees potholder or that rooster saltshaker you picked up in Provence. Surround yourself in the kitchen with items that have positive associations for you.
These are just a few suggestions.
Elaine Morales, Founder of Not Just a Daydream, is a health and lifestyle transformation coach, author of Why Delay Amazing? A Total Transformation Guide and an NPC figure competitor. Her mission is to help as many people as possible to overcome barriers to achieving the body and life of their dreams!
Visit Elaine at http://www.notjustadaydream.com