A New Old Way of Eating: Let's Stop Dieting & Start Cooking

By ~ Katrina Brink of The Empowered Kitchen

 Photography by  Amanda Tipton

Photography by Amanda Tipton

Healthy Relationship with Food

How we relate to food matters. In the United States we have a notoriously fraught relationship with food. We’re afraid of it and susceptible to fear tactics waged by companies warning us to be afraid of certain ingredients and that suddenly a food that used to be healthy is now going to harm us. Food is meant to nourish and fuel our bodies. When did we become so afraid of it? When in balanced portions food wants to do the right thing in our bodies if we'll let it. In many other cultures, food is seen as a way to share time with loved ones, care for yourself and savor the taste and culinary knowledge that has been passed down for generations. Let's get back to that.

We're all craving real connection, and that can start with simple, whole food around the dinner table. We can all get back in sync with the rhythms of regular mealtimes and cooking routines. Cooking is a form of taking care of ourselves and our loved ones with healthy, homemade food that tastes good, keeps us sharp and well-fueled, and brings people together. That’s what food has done for generations and there’s no need to fear it or to dive into the next fad diet. We just need to be in charge of what is going into our food, and cooking is the best way to do that. 

It may seem like too much to ask for us to cook scratch meals in our busy 21st century lives, but food is fundamental to the success of our days and there are practical ways to make this a reality. Taking care of this essential part of your life will pay great dividends in both physical and mental health. 

Listening to Your Body

Simply tuning into how you feel after eating a meal will give you all the information you need about how healthy that meal was. For instance, if it fired you up or made you feel sluggish. If you feel vibrant, energized and ready get after your day, then you know what you ate was a combination of foods that your body craves. If you feel off or tired after a meal, that may indicate something you ate was not the best food to fuel yourself for the day. Or perhaps the portion size of a particular ingredient was too large or not enough.  

Everyone’s body is different, so portions and kinds of foods will vary somewhat for each individual. Generally a hearty helping of fresh fruits and vegetables, some grains with small amounts of vegetable or meat protein and fats in nuts, seeds or dairy create the foundation for a healthy, filling meal. It’s all about getting a sense of your mental clarity and level of energy after a meal and making slight adjustments until you intuitively know what your body thrives on. Then you make that your routine and keep adding foods and new dishes to it. 

 Photography by Amanda Tipton

Photography by Amanda Tipton

Meal Prep Techniques

It may seem overwhelming and unattainable to cook every meal for yourself everyday, but with a few new simple food preparation techniques throughout your week, it's every bit possible to fit into your life. 

Learning a few meal prep techniques will help you make this a regular habit that is as natural as brushing your teeth twice a day. Here are some to get you started.

  • Buy 3 or 4 vegetables to roast, along with a whole chicken, some fish or shrimp, pork chops or a chuck roast. If you’re vegetarian buy a block of tofu or tempeh or whatever other vegetarian protein you typically use. 
  • Roast the vegetables and meats. While these are roasting you can prepare 1 or 2 homemade dressings, a sauce or two and cook one or two two kinds of grains. Then chop a few fresh vegetables to have for salads and snacks for the first half of the week.  
  • When the roasted vegetables and meats come out of the oven you can store them to use to create meals later, or make a few dishes right away. Soups are really easy and versatile to make with roasted vegetables. The cooked veggies can also be used in tacos or enchiladas, with eggs for breakfast, in rice or noodle bowls, sliced on salads or sandwiches. Let yourself get creative with it so you’re never bored with your meals for the week.  

This will take 2 1/2 -3 hours, depending on if you make a few dishes right away or wait until later. Cooking a couple of dishes immediately may be the most efficient use of time, since you’re already in the kitchen with equipment out and ready to use. Some people like to cook most of their meals once a week, and some do a small batch on Sunday and a small batch on Wednesday. Experiment with which days and how much cooking at one time works for you.

You can use these same principals to prepare smoothie ingredients ahead and freeze them, or other healthy breakfasts, as well as snacks or nutritious desserts for the week.  It’s about finding recipes for foods that will last well in the fridge, or the pantry for the week, or in the freezer for a couple of months.

Use that Freezer

Remember your freezer! It’s your friend. If you prepare one batch of enchiladas, either freeze half of it or double the recipe to freeze one batch. Puréed soups freeze great too. It’s a wonderful thing to pull these out of the freezer to thaw in the morning and have dinner ready to heat up when you get home. Meatballs, falafel, veggie burgers, meat burgers and many sauces freeze well too, so you can save whatever you don’t use in the week for a later meal with no cooking required…just reheating. You’ll be so impressed with yourself that you’ll never go back to cooking one meal every night or grabbing fast food on your way home everyday. 

 Photography by Amanda Tipton

Photography by Amanda Tipton

Pay Attention to How You Feel

Once you start trying out some new recipes, you’ll start to see what your body responds well to, and tailoring your diet to more of that. You know how you feel, so this is much less about adhering to a new diet regimen and a specific list of foods that someone else has determined. This way of being and cooking is about knowing what you like to eat, how much is good for your body and how to choose food that makes you feel great and fuels you. It may take a little while to get a sense of which foods energize you and which drag you down. Be gentle with yourself as it is a process that will unfold naturally. Enjoy the food you eat and savor it, even the chocolate cake or fruit tart. Yes! Those are parts of the beauty and enjoyment of living this life and eating good food, so hold onto every delicious bite. 

Let’s learn together how to cook simple, whole ingredients from scratch again, so we never have to fear food and are empowered to take charge of our kitchens and our health. 

Let's Gather & Learn

If you’d like to learn some practical, healthy cooking skills and learn more about The Empowered Kitchen’s meal prep cooking classes, join Healthy Women Leaders for the Summer Evening Farm-to-Table Cooking Class on August 14th!  Details here

You can learn about Katrina’s meal prep cooking classes at www.empoweredkitchen.com

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