I get it: we’re all busy. Yet carving out a little time to cook healthy dishes each week (which I should add is one of the oldest, and arguably most important, art forms) can empower us in more ways than we ever imagined. In fact, it’s one of the most rewarding activities we can do, mentally, physically, socially and of course, deliciously. Here’s how healthy cooking can change your entire relationship with food, and potentially, your life:
1. You’ll understand food from the inside-out: It’s one thing to know things like “donuts are bad” and “oatmeal is good” but it’s another thing to understand why. This is what cooking at home teaches us: a fundamental understanding of our food. When we make recipes, we come face to face with the ingredients from which we compose a dish. Seeing the depressingly large amounts of white sugar and butter that are required for a cookie recipe (or conversely, adding in heaps of vibrant fresh produce to make a beautiful smoothie) enhances our understanding of just what makes the bad so bad and the good so incredible. Which directly leads to our second reason.
2. Making better choices is easier, everywhere: Knowing “why” makes sticking to your healthy goals while grocery shopping, and even dining out, more intuitive. The more you understand about food, from reading recipes and creating food, the better sense you’ll have about what items should make your healthy cut. It’s extremely empowering to be able to read a nutritional label and understand which ingredients are unnecessarily or of poor quality—an understanding gained through the experience of making a healthier (and tastier) version of the same food at home. Similarly, by identifying ingredients on a menu that are familiar to you from healthy recipes you’ve been creating in your home kitchen, filtering the “good choices” while dining out becomes almost a matter of instinct.
3. It’s fun and bonding: At the end of the day, most of us want to be healthier, right? So truly, what greater gift can you provide for your friends and family than offering a delicious homemade treat that genuinely supports health and vitality? You’ll be surprised at how many people are attracted to your rejuvenating cuisine, and don’t be surprised if you become an inspiration to others.
4. Diets transfer into rewarding lifestyles: Just like knowledge is power, cooking know-how is key to creating a healthy lifestyle you not only can stick with, but genuinely want to! Without some hands-on food preparation, most diets become monotonous over time, which leads to cravings and temptations, and ultimately dietary dismissal. Cooking healthfully means that you can learn to make many of the things you crave in better and more rewarding forms! Temptations can be responded to instead of suppressed as the idea of “denial” goes out the window with smart substitutions. Over time, these new methods eventually become simply the way you cook so that the idea of “diet” isn’t even something that comes to mind. Case in point? The No-Bake Brownies (below) from my Superfood Kitchen cookbook are not just a cinch to make, but they satisfy brownie and chocolate cravings while being composed of entirely natural, whole food ingredients without added sugar or oil. They’re so good, some have even called them life-changing.
No Bake Brownies
Somewhere between a brownie and a fudgy square, this fantastic dessert is made from just fruits, nuts, and superfoods. Better still, five ingredients + five minutes is all it takes to go from zero to brownie.
Reprinted with permission from Superfood Kitchen: Cooking with Nature’s Most Amazing Foods.
Makes 16 squares
- 1 cup soft Medjool dates (about 10-11), pits removed
- 1 cup raw walnut pieces
- 1⁄2 cup cacao powder
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon, or up to 1⁄2 cup cacao nibs (use quantity to taste)
Place walnuts in a food processor and grind for a couple seconds to form a coarse flour. While machine is running, add pitted dates, cacao powder and salt, processing until a moist, crumb- like dough has formed. Depending on the natural moisture of the dates, you may need to add a touch of water – a teaspoon at a time – to get the crumbs to “stick” when pinched together.
Spread the crumbs into an 8×8 inch pan, sprinkle with cacao nibs and press firmly into a solid brownie layer. Cut into bite-size squares.