When you prepare and cook most of your own food using mostly fresh produce (or someone in your partnership or family does), the need to worry about getting enough nutrition is virtually abolished. You will also most likely eat less.
As Michael Pollan explains in his book In Defence of Food, traditional cultures who still prepare and cook their own meals from ‘real food’ (not manufactured food), have much less diet related disease than Western cultures. These cultures don’t need to know what nutrients in are what foods or that cooking tomatoes in olive oil makes the anti-oxidant lycopene more available, they just cook and eat real food and as a result get all the nutrition they need.
Nutrition science in combination with the food industry manufacturing supposedly healthy food based on this science, has complicated nutrition to the point many people feel they don’t know what to eat anymore. Certainly nutrition science and the manufacture of food is useful to a point, but we have got carried away and ‘real food’ has been left behind.
There is a theoretically simple solution to our nutrition woes. Start preparing and cooking more of your own food (real food) and stop eating so much manufactured food. I say theoretical as many people have organised their lives in such a way as to leave little time for thinking about what to eat, little time to shop and very little time to cook. We are a ‘fast everything’ culture. The food industry knows this and provides us the solution with fast food, ready to eat meals, take-away food and a plethora of packet mixes and the like to make any cooking you do as speedy as possible.
The weight loss industry also offers a way of eating that requires minimal effort when it comes to eating. Pretty much every diet is offering you a short cut to the time required to truly eat well and it has failed miserably.
Cooking your own fresh food does more that just increases the quality of the food you eat. The increased amount of time you spend immersed in thinking about and preparing what goes into your body, means you will eat less. There are several reasons for this.
- You will eat more mindfully as you appreciate the effort that went into the entire process. Don’t believe me? Try it. Also see what I call ‘the dinner party effect’ below.
- You get to dictate the portion size. Fast food, take-away and even healthier ready to eat meals or restaurant meals are a one size fits all. Often, a 6′ 10″ man is given the same portion as a 5′ 2″ woman. Yes fast food comes in small, medium and large, but I know many smaller people who still order large as it’s “better value for money”.
- When food is better quality, you get more “bang for your buck”. Each bite gives you a richer food experience and provided you are eating mindfully, this helps with eating less.
I don’t have time to cook, I hear you say. Or perhaps you feel you can’t cook.
To the former I say, if you are not prepared you to make the time to feed yourself well, perhaps you are not that interested in looking after your health. If you work long hours, one hopes this is remunerated appropriately and then perhaps you can afford to pay someone to cook up a week worth of food for you. As discussed in ‘In Defence of Food”, we humans of Western culture allocate a lot less of our income to eating well and spend a lot more money on health care than do other cultures. This distribution of income is wrong and needs to change.
To the later I say, start cooking more. Cooking is like learning to drive a car. We are not born knowing how to drive, we learn through instruction and practice. Use recipes to instruct you and start practising, you’ll surprise yourself how quickly you pick it up. You don’t need to cook like they do on cooking shows, that’s what restaurants are for, just stick to basic meals.
The Dinner Party Effect
If you have ever thrown a dinner party, you’ve probably had this experience. You spend much of the day thinking about what to eat, carefully selecting food (usually from a market rather than the supermarket) and then preparing and cooking the food. You set the table to look special and make sure the atmosphere is just right to heighten the enjoyment. By the the time you finally sit down to eat, you find you don’t need to, or want to, eat as much as you would normally.
Why is this?
Quite simply your senses have spent the day immersed in food and along with eating much more mindfully (you are really focused on food to get a sense of what your guests are tasting), the nice setting and pleasant atmosphere all add up to a much richer experience and you don’t need as much pleasure from the food itself.
You can achieve all of this on a much smaller scale with every meal you eat. Buy and cook your own food, sit in a pleasant place and eat the meal mindfully without the distraction of TV, your computer or other gadget.
Bottom line, if you really want to escape the dieting world and truly want to better your health, start buying and cooking more of your own food. Ensure this food is whole fresh food with minimal processing and minimal packaging.
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