Learn to Cook, Get Healthy

People rely on fast food, convenience foods, and highly processed foods for different reasons. Maybe your family is constantly on the go from practice, to private lessons, to competitions, and everything in between. Ready-made meals and quick bites to eat are mainstays by necessity. Maybe your idea of cooking is preparing a box of mac and cheese and microwaving hot dogs. Or maybe everyone’s exhausted after a long day of work, you prefer the convenience of take-out foods, or you are intimidated by making meals at home.

Learning how to cook is much easier than many people realize, and it’s possible to make meals at home even if you have a packed schedule. Most importantly, cooking meals from fresh ingredients is an easy way to improve your health.

Cooking nutritious meals at home is a simple way to improve your health, and it's easier than you might think. Click To Tweet

Can cooking make you healthier?

Learning how to cook helps you understand what goes into food. Seeing just how much butter goes into those biscuits, or how much sugar goes into that cake, can help you make a conscious decision to control portion size and limit eating unhealthy foods.

It’s not just identifying unhealthy foods, though. You also learn which foods offer the most nutritional value, develop ways to improve the nutritional value of foods, and identify which flavors go well together. 

A study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who cook most of their meals at home consume fewer calories and less fat, sugar, and carbohydrates than those who do not cook at home.

You also learn to enjoy healthy foods. Fast food and highly processed foods are loaded with salt and sugar, and they trigger pleasure sensors in the brain. If you’re accustomed to a diet of mostly processed foods, healthy options may be less satisfying. Taking the time and effort to cook a meal in the kitchen with real ingredients is a rewarding experience that can help you enjoy healthy food.

Cooking meals from scratch and using real ingredients can help you avoid highly processed foods. Minimally processed foods and whole foods tend to be healthier than ultra processed alternatives; baked chicken is a healthier option than frozen chicken nuggets.

A study from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases found a correlation between a diet of highly processed foods and increased weight gain and calorie consumption. Highly processed foods, or ultra processed foods, include ready-made meals, convenience foods, and fast foods.

Knowing how to cook also allows you make your meals healthier. Fore example, you can’t really alter a frozen lasagna. However, if you make lasagna from scratch you can choose whole grain noodles, a no-sugar-added homemade pasta sauce, natural cheese, and additional vegetables to improve the nutritional value and make your meal healthier.

Cooking at home can help improve your mood. View cooking as an event rather than a chore. It can be relaxing, rewarding, a way to spend time with the family.

Healthier foods make you feel better, which helps promote a more active lifestyle. You might feel like taking a nap or sitting on the couch for a while after eating a big burger and a large order of fries from a fast food restaurant. However, you might feel like going for a walk around the park or a family bike ride after a light and nutritious dinner of salmon, brown rice, and a garden salad.

Learning how to cook

Cooking is basically following instructions. It might not seem this simple until you get a good foundation for cooking, however. There are several ways you can learn how to make healthy meals and build your confidence in the kitchen.

  • Meal delivery services that send measured ingredients and recipes to your doorstep are a popular trend right now. Testing out one of these services can help you try new foods and learn how to make new meals. Plus, they offer convenience by saving you a trip to the store. 
  • Creating a meal plan for the week is helpful for busy families. Set aside time on the weekend to plan your meals and then make your grocery list. There are services to help plan meals like Prepear or eMeals. eMeals even adds the items to your online grocery order for Instacart or Walmart. 
  • To learn how to efficiently cut a vegetable or make a full dish, YouTube is a great resource for people looking to learn new things. You can find tutorial videos showing you the step by step process for making nearly any meal you can think of.
  • There are thousands of online recipes for virtually every dish. Find a recipe that looks good and give it a try! Take a look at the MANA Pinterest boards for healthy recipes.