Scott H Young

Want to Eat Healthier? Learn to Cook.


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Two weeks ago, I bought several new cooking appliances for the first time. Until this point I have only had moderate cooking skills, but I felt it was time to stop short-changing myself and make genuine meals. One of the pleasant surprises I’ve had since I started cooking was that it is far easier to eat healthy foods if you know how to cook.

Cooking is a dying art, because it takes too much time and convenience foods are cheap and tasty. Until recently, I’d always seen great cooking as simply being a luxury. If you want to eat tasty foods, you need to cook. Unfortunately, when you’re busy, taste is less important than speed.

Now that I’ve started improving my cooking skills, I’ve started to see how better cooking can lead to healthier eating.

Making Healthy Food Tasty

Junk food tastes good. Back when humans were eating mammoths and food was scarce, the body had different priorities. Fat and calories were harder to find than vegetables and fiber, so that’s why french fries and donuts taste better than broccoli.

My goal of learning to cook is to find ways to cook healthy foods to make them taste better. If healthy foods are bland and dry, they will be overpowered by the junk food McDonalds spends millions of dollars to taste perfect.

Who Here Likes Tofu?

I’ve met very few people who genuinely like tofu. I’ve met a lot more people that won’t touch the stuff. While a healthy diet doesn’t need to include the white blocks, it’s a perfect example of a healthy food that most people can’t stand.

My adventures with cooking started with the challenge of finding a way to cook the stuff. As some of you know, I don’t eat meat, so tofu is an excellent source of protein and calcium. I must have cooked a dozen different recipes before I started finding ways that worked. Now I actually like tofu and I know many recipes where it will taste good.

My goal isn’t to get you to eat tofu. Instead, I want to suggest that if you want to eat healthier, learn how to cook. The taste factor for many otherwise bland, healthy foods can double or triple depending on your culinary skills.

An Argument for Cooking

I’m not a chef and I’m not a nutritionist. But as there are none so pious as the newly converted, I thought I’d share my reasons for improving my cooking skills:

1) Eat Real Food

“Healthy” convenience foods are growing in popularity. While these quick, veggie filled dishes might claim to be the perfect solution for the busy lifestyle, I have my doubts. According to nutritionist, T. Colin Campbell, nutrition has an incredibly complex chemistry, so you can’t just measure your vitamins as a way of determining how healthy your diet is.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, argues that we shouldn’t eat food our grandmother’s wouldn’t recognize. Fewer ingredients, simpler foods and more whole grains. Learning to cook is the only way you can get real food.

2) Great Cooking Doesn’t Take More Time than Bad Cooking

Putting on a four course meal will take you several hours. But if you’re creative, you can drastically cut down on preparation time without lowering quality. Buy a rice cooker and you can have brown rice or quinoa ready with only a few minutes of preparation as the cooker will turn itself off when you’re ready.

3) Don’t Fight Your Tastebuds

In a war against your gustational senses, you’re probably going to lose. Don’t use willpower and don’t fight the inevitable. Your body wants to eat tasty foods, so why resist?


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9 Responses to “Want to Eat Healthier? Learn to Cook.”

  1. Andy says:

    This is good advice. The beauty of cooking is that even if you don’t worry about cooking healthy things, as long as you are cooking real food, it will still be much healthier than frozen or restaurant food.

    I think another important thing is to find a few meals that you can cook quickly, taste really good, and are still healthy for those evenings when you just don’t feel like cooking. For me, it’s pasta. I just boil some spaghetti and make a quick tomato sauce. It is delicious and easy enough to cook when I don’t want to.

  2. John says:

    I swear by my slow cooker. :) 15 minutes of ingredient prep time, throw those ingredients in before I go to work, turn it on low, and when I get home from work, three or four meals-worth of food, ready to be eaten or frozen for later.

  3. Blake says:

    Thanks Scott. Again, you always seem to touch on topics of high interest and priority. Keep the posts coming.

  4. Anthony says:

    Tofu – all nonfermented soy products contain dangerous levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can cause all kinds of health problems, including cancer and prostate problems. I avoid foods high in phytoestrogens at all costs.

    “If husband strays from his wife, he’ll be getting extra tofu for dinner.” – old chinese proverb

  5. Scott Young says:

    Anthony,

    I’ve read a lot of information about soy, so I’ll agree the advice is mixed. From what I’ve read, I’m more inclined to say that soy is okay. But the possibility of estrogen-like chemicals and anti-nutrients, shouldn’t be ignored.

    -Scott

  6. Dave says:

    Scott – Thanks for this. I’m currently learning to cook ‘properly’, and I’m enjoying the process.

    John – Thanks for the reminder about slow cookers. I’ve just hauled mine out of the cupboard. Do you have any links to recipe ideas for slow cookers at all?

    Cheers

    Dave.

  7. david says:

    The concept of only eating tasty food and not things you don’t like, is of course very important! Forcing yourself to eat food you actually don’t like, just for the purpose of being healthy, doesn’t sound very healthy to me. So, that’s great advice.

    But. What you think of as tasty food, is not necessarily constant. On the other hand, it might very well change as you explore your way to the food jungle and shed some of your old opinions. Speaking from own experience, junk food does not nearly taste as good now, as it did a couple of years ago. My diet now is also very different from what it was then, and I find that the less junk I eat, the less tasty it becomes to me. Somehow I like to believe that junk food lower your appreciation for real food, and that it takes a while for you and your taste buds to wake up and realize that. I also find I’m much more conscious of how the food makes me feel, and not only of the taste per se – if I eat something that I know will lower my energy, it won’t taste very good to me.

    Of course there’s no right or wrong in the question of taste, but I would encourage everybody to try lots of different food and really trying to experience and evaluate how it tastes and how it actually makes you feel physically.

  8. Scott Young says:

    Great comment David, I completely agree!

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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