Healthy Cooking Means Cooking with Real Food
When was the last time you cooked a meal from scratch? By "from scratch" I do not mean opening a box of hamburger helper and adding meat and water. Hamburger helper is not real food. Real food does not come in boxes on shelves, nor does it exist in powdered form (like the fake cheese in every child's favorite - mac and cheese. If you want to cook healthy foods, you have to start with real foods.
Now that we know a little bit about what does not constitute real food, what does? Isn't all food from the grocery store real? Not really. Technically many things are edible, but many things are also created by food manufacturers to make a profit, not help us to be healthy. Many of the foods you find in the grocery store are also created with chemicals not food. While the very best foods for your health are not found at the supermarket (you can find them from your local farmers and at farmer's markets) you can get real food there, but you have to be very careful when buying from the grocery store. It might seem that if you take away all the boxes and processed foods that there isn't much to eat, but as Michael Pollan put it in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, you should "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Nina Planck has an entire book devoted to what we should eat and why, titled Real Food. The picture on the front of Planck's book gives some examples of foods that would qualify as real. Included are eggs, butter, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese and meat. Reading her book confirmed these food choices. Think for a moment about what all of these foods have in common. Think about the history of food. Not just food that your parents and grandparents ate, but food that people ate hundreds and thousands of years ago. For centuries people have been eating dairy, eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables. That is real food. They were healthier than we are today.
Healthy cooking doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require actually cooking, not just heating something up in the microwave. You can't grab a popt art on your way out the door in the morning, but you can make delicious scrambled eggs with butter and herbs. It doesn't have to be complicated, but it requires more than heating up a frozen Stouffer's entree for lunch. It doesn't take too long to put together a healthy salad. Rather than ordering a pizza for dinner, try grilling chicken and vegetable kabobs.
I will be the first to admit that switching to a real foods diet can be overwhelming because our culture has it so ingrained in us to eat the processed junk from the stores and the fast food from the corner shop. But if you really want to cook healthy foods for your family, then you must cook with real food. Once you get used to it (I found making small changes each week helpful) you won't want to go back to your old way of cooking.
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