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Healthy Cooking Means Cooking with Real Food

Updated on March 25, 2010
A good example of a "real food" dinner - lamb chops, kale and yogurt sauce.
A good example of a "real food" dinner - lamb chops, kale and yogurt sauce.

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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    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 7 years ago from USA

      Hi Jennifer, this is a great hub. I totally agree with the ideas. Thanks.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Garbage in = garbage out. We eat a lot of "real food." We love fresh veggies!

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 7 years ago from Italy

      So true, and so forgotten. You said it perfectly and I agree 100% with you. Actually I eat pretty often scrambled eggs with wild herbs, and they are simply wonderful. Rated up and stumbled.:)

      And thanks for your kind comment. :)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      My kids used to love, as a treat, hamburger helper, and I gave in to the whim a few times. But as a long time 'scratch' cook, I just could not cope with hamburger helper. It actually makes me gag. Sorry, boys, ixnay on the hamburger helper.

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 7 years ago from Texas

      Great advice. I must admit, I am a fan of the microwave.

    • Cassidella profile image

      Cassidella 7 years ago

      Hi Jennifer,

      I like the point you made about healthy cooking starting with real food. For sure, starting with the freshest ingredients available makes meals taste better and can coax us into better health also.

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 7 years ago

      I wish I would make more time for actually cooking meals rather than living on microwave dinners and snacks. That just can't be very healthy for me.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I fully agree with you, Jennifer, I don't think I could ever be happy with fast food. Nothing but a good meal all homecooked.

    • Habby profile image

      Habby 7 years ago from College Station, Texas

      Jennifer, you are so right, especially about changing one thing at a time. In our home, I try to balance eating out with eating in and getting that family time around the table.

      Also, I have meals I make entirely from scratch on days when I have more time and meals that are a little quicker when it's a full day. But a non-negotiable is to have fresh fruit and veggies in our home. Love 'em.

      Thanks for your hub. ENjoyed it!

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

      GojiJuiceGoodness 7 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      So few people realize that eating healthy means you're gonna have to cook some REAL food. Great hub!!

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 7 years ago from Michigan

      You said it! I love feeding my family real food and I have less picky eaters for it too.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Jennifer, I always enjoy your hubs, and I love the message in this one.

      You inspire me. I'll be writing up a few real food hubs of my own soon.

      All the best!

    • profile image

      proudgrandpa 7 years ago

      Hi Jeniffer,

      Now you have hit on a subject near and dear to me. I love to cook, however, my wife wishes I would find someone else's kitchen to do it in. I digress. My brother-in-law taught me to cut whole foods in larger chunks so you can savor the individual tastes of the foods. Another hubber, Sally Trove once challenged me to a hub on ecofriendly soup since I had written about recycling, etc. Check it out, it was a fun hub to write. Sally (Trish) and I still share our thoughts on each others hubs. Please keep it up with your excellent hubs. NEIL

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Real food is the only ingredient to use. Put something fresh and wonderful in the pot and something fresh and delicious emerges. Great hub.