What I Tell My Patients Who Want To Start Cooking Healthy Foods

Cooking gets a bad rap. I’ve heard all the excuses from my patients: It’s time-consuming, inconvenient, or difficult. But here's the reality: Many Americans spend more time watching cooking shows on television than actually cooking. As a result, we’re living on processed and fast foods, and raising a generation who doesn’t know how to cook. Quite frankly, it’s killing us.

I want to challenge you to rethink cooking. See it as an act of love that strengthens bonds, teaches important life-extending skills to your children, and nourishes your bodies and souls.

Embracing the act of cooking real food is the single most important thing we can do to create a healthy, sustainable food system.

Whether you're a newbie or a pro chef, these six strategies simplify and encourage healthy cooking in a way that even the busiest novice can enjoy.

1. Keep staples and frozen products on hand.

While fresh foods you find in the produce aisles are ideal, stocking up on frozen berries, vegetables and other items provides longer-lasting alternatives for healthy, easy meals.

Similarly, foods like nuts, nut butters and nondairy milks are other healthy hidden gems you can easily keep stockpiled. And for those nights when cooking truly is out of the question, look for brands making healthy packaged meals using quality ingredients from whole foods.

2. Make the kitchen a welcoming room.

People love to gather in the kitchen. It’s the place for nourishing your body, as well as your family relationships. It’s also a space to bond with your children, while teaching them valuable life skills.

So establish your kitchen as the ground-zero family meeting place and make it exclusively for cooking and socializing.

3. Reexamine your time.

Time is the biggest excuse for why many of my patients don't cook. But you probably have more time than you think. To find out, keep a journal for one week and track all your activities in detail. You’ll probably find you can reorganize your to-do list, revisit your viewing habits, shut off your computer, and reclaim some time for cooking.

4. Let yourself make mistakes.

If you’re new to cooking or your skills have gotten rusty, don’t aim for perfection with your first recipe — aim for experimenting and practicing. Start with a more basic recipe with just a few ingredients and work your way up to something more complex.

5. Get the whole family involved.

That means dragging your kids away from their video games and asking them to measure ingredients, pull food from the fridge, or even chop veggies if they’re ready for the task. Make a point of learning new skills and trying recipes together.

To get everyone excited about what's in store, decide on meals and menus as a family. Finally, take time to celebrate together the food you’ve prepared by hand — as opposed to inhaling something straight from its packaging.

6. Watch Fed Up.

Need more inspiration? I recommend Fed Up, a family-friendly documentary that explores what went wrong in the modern food industry and how we can fix it. (Full disclosure: I believed in the cause so much that I'm a medical advisor in this film.) I’ve received numerous comments from readers that it was the “fire” they needed to start cooking.

By purchasing real foods and cooking them yourself, you’re going to transform your health. But you’re also helping to transform the food industry, one small choice at a time. The problems are global — but the solution is as local as your fork.

Ready to get started? My free newsletter offers delicious recipes that make cooking both accessible and enjoyable. I hope you'll join me in taking back our kitchens!

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to...
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