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Cooking at Home: A Beginner’s Guide

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Man in kitchen cooking lunch - Focus on food
Man in kitchen cooking lunch – Focus on food
After working with clients over the past five years, one thing is apparent:  Many people lack confidence in the kitchen or the know-how.  They understand home-cooked meals are an important foundation for their health but they may lack the time, skills or motivation.  Instead of telling you all the benefits of cooking at home (because I am sure you have heard them all. Blah. Blah. Blah), today we are going to discuss how to actually get cooking!

Step 1- Set a Goal:  This first step is very critical and different for everyone. How many meals are you willing to cook this week? Be realistic.  If you rarely cook meals at home then it might not be realistic for you to begin cooking three meals a week.  Maybe just one meal a week would be a good start.  The purpose of this goal is to set an intention for the week ahead of you.  Lots of research supports that people are more likely to stick with their goals if they write them down.  So, WRITE IT DOWN!  Even if it is just on a sticky note. Then place it on your fridge.  An example might be, “I plan on cooking at least 2 meals at home this week.”

Step 2- Incorporate the Family:  If you have multiple family members in your house or roommates thenget them in on the action!  Ask them what meals they would like to eat at home for the week.  Make it a family affair.  Eating healthy can be challenging if other members in the house are not on board.  By including them in the decision-making process they have more of a buy-in.  As an extra bonus, other family members may want to get involved with cooking the meals.  More hands = lighter work :)

Step 3- Look for Healthy Recipes: Sometimes this can be the most difficult task. What is healthy? As a general rule you want to stay away from recipes that are high in sugar or deep fried.  I know what you are thinking… Then where is all the flavor?  The flavor will be in the spices.  Look for recipes with a variety of spices.  It is okay if there is a some sugar or fat (1-2 tsp per serving).  In fact, including some fat in your meal helps you absorb the fat soluble nutrients such as A, D, E and K. If you are looking for healthy recipes I enjoy eatingwell.comvegetariantimes.com, or food52.com. There are lots of other great websites out there too.  Don’t always worry about choosing the healthiest recipe.  The most important thing is that you are starting to cook.

Step 5- Make a List & Check It Twice- This step is key!  Don’t just go to the grocery store and expect to know everything you need to buy.  After finding some recipes make sure to write down all the ingredients you need to buy.  Nothing is more frustrating than starting to prepare a meal and realizing you are forgetting a key ingredient.  By making a list it also helps set your intention that you want to prepare meals for the following week.

Step 6- Get the Right Tools- Every time my husband starts a new house project he tells me, “Every new project requires a new tool.”  Well I have latched on to that idea and now make sure I have the right “tools” for my cooking projects.  It is amazing how much easier and faster cooking becomes if you have the right tools and equipment.  Did I mention cooking can become more fun too?   I love  my mandolin, sharp knives, cast iron skillet, food processor and Vitamix just to name a few :)  I will make sure to write more on this in another blog soon :)

Step 7- Just Do It!-  When something is new to us it can be frightening and intimidating.  It is easy to come up with excuses and shy away from the unknown.  But once you get over this hurdle the cooking part will be easy.  Sometimes our biggest obstacle is ourselves.  You can do it! It may help to visualize yourself in the kitchen making a meal.  One of my favorite yoga teachers says, “Visualization is actualization.”  Athletes use this strategy all the time to see results.  Commit yourself to one meal and and then just do it!

Step 8- Try. Try Again- Remember how I just said that you should just do it?  Well sometimes the harsh truth is that it does not always work out :(  And that is okay!  Not every meal is going to be perfect.  In fact, not every meal will taste good.  The important thing is to try, try again.  As you continue to cook your skills and confidence will improve in the kitchen.  Cooking is like everything else.  It takes time, patience and trial and error to develop.  Trust that you will continue to improve.  On a side note, I was trying to make a liver meatloaf this last weekend.  One word: Disaster.  I was trying to expand my palate and….well…it did not work out.  But that’s okay.  I am still going to try and experiment with new recipes (maybe even liver, who knows? :) ).  That is how you grow your skills.

Now that you are ready to start cooking.  What meals would you like to start creating in your home?

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