My Journal

“It Begins In The Kitchen”

Garnet Valley Press, Wednesday, May 28th, 2014    

As a Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer and Wellness Coach, I often discuss various health issues with my clients. If there is a constant thread that runs through all of these conversations it is that people yearn to lead a healthy lifestyle but don’t know how and where to begin, which brings me to the title of this article: IT BEGINS IN YOUR KITCHEN!

From my perspective, the kitchen is the foundation of good health. What I mean by this is that you have the choice to change your health destiny simply by spending more time in your kitchen. Humans need to strive to cook and prepare as many of their own meals as possible. I once heard our food environment described as toxic. And I agree 100%. Why? Because it’s what and how we eat today that is causing the rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease to soar. And unfortunately, our children are headed in the same direction. So let’s return to the kitchen.

Here’s a list of important reasons to get back to basics: cooking, preparing, and gathering your ingredients on a weekly basis.

Cooking – Portion Control
By cooking or simply preparing your own meal, such as packing your lunch, you are effectively predetermining how much you will eat.

Whereas a meal in a restaurant or fast food eatery is often laden with extra calories and is usually larger than the recommended serving size for one person. Cooking and preparing your own meals helps control portion sizes, cuts calories and aids weight loss.

Additionally, eating out usually results in higher sodium intake. When you are the chef, ingredients such as salt, saturated fat, sugar and artificial ingredients can be limited and/or reduced.

Preparing – Save Money
Packing your own lunch will mean more money in your piggy bank instead of the pockets of local restaurants.

Preparing meals ahead of time is also an effective time and money saving strategy. When you plan and prepare the meals ahead of time, you’ve already made the decision of what you will eat in lieu of grabbing expensive convenience meals on the way home from work.

Gathering – Shop for Nutrient Density
Every cook must shop, so when planning to cook various recipes, you will have the opportunity to shop for fresh and high-quality ingredients to help ensure you are getting the most nutrition out of your meals.

And so, the word is out: Shop in order to cook healthier foods at home! Some of my favorite sources are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco and Shop Rite for the standard household food items.

Speaking of nutrient density, what’s a healthy thing you can do for your body post workout? Re-fuel with high quality micro- and macro-nutrients, another words nutrient dense foods, in order to recover from exercise and set up for the next session.

Be a Role Model for Good Health
Inspire your children at an early age to get involved with cooking. They will benefit from the awareness of wholesome food and how to prepare it when they have to make food choices on their own.

Or perhaps you’d like to inspire a significant other to get started on their New Year’s Resolutions. Being a role model for good health can be infectious and it starts with nutritious cooking.

Stress Less
Cooking at home gives us another reason to spend more time at home with family and friends, instead of more time at work in a high-stress mode. Stress reduction is vital to good health and keeping our immune system strong.

What can stir your appetite and sense of “hominess” more than the aroma of a freshly cooked meal in your own home? Get out the crock pot and set yourself up for an effortless and stress-free dinner ready and waiting upon your arrival home from work! There is a plethora of cooking magazines with lists of crock pot specialties. Cooking Light, Eating Well, and Health are several magazines worth reading.

Enjoy more family dinners cooked at home and eaten together at the dinner table. Our society lacks this very important social interaction. Studies have shown the importance of the family unit and the need to spend more time at the dinner table together.

Practice Makes Perfect
And a personal favorite of mine is that the more you cook, the better you get at it. Just the process of selecting recipes, itemizing the grocery list, shopping and then actually cooking the meal fuels the inner sense that you are doing something healthy for you and for whomever you are cooking. It also becomes easier because the more you cook, the more basic ingredients you have on hand such as spices and olive oil. Before you know it, you are sharing your favorite recipes with friends and demonstrating the importance of cooking to others. You begin to embrace the act of cooking and incorporate it into your weekly routine, which, in the end, results in you taking time out for your health. This is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

In conclusion, get on the horse! Don’t walk but gallop first to the grocery store and then to the kitchen! You certainly won’t regret saving money by eating more home-cooked meals. And your body will thank you for better nutrient-dense meals. You will feel better physically and emotionally, knowing that you are making the effort to develop a healthy habit that will carry you forward for a lifetime of health and wellness. As the saying goes, “You have everything when you have your health.”

Written by Jackie Tate MS, CFT

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