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?