You know you want to be healthy and cook healthy for yourself and your family, BUT how do you even begin to convert your kitchen from a SAD (standard American diet) one to a healthy one??? It can be so overwhelming. It was for me when I had my revelation about 7 years ago. My husband was ill and needed to be on an anti-inflammatory diet. What did that mean? How was I going to cook to help him?
The most important thing I want to convey to you is that it’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with baby steps. And, even if you had the luxury of having someone like me come in to your kitchen and tell you how to do it, you need to consider the expense of such a conversion.
I don’t remember all the steps I took. I was lucky enough to have found a diet plan on the internet that included some guidelines. The author said that it took her 5 years to make her kitchen organic and healthy. That gave me some comfort and I took my time and did what I could in small bites. Sure enough, it took me about that much time for my conversion. I would think I was done and then realize I hadn’t dealt with things like food storage or spices or the temperature at which I was cooking – I’m still struggling with that because I tend to do most things quickly and that means cooking on high heat, which I’ve learned depletes nutrients and can make the food unhealthy.
I used the internet extensively to guide me and found that very helpful but I let it lead me astray from time to time, taking me down rabbit holes and spending money unnecessarily. There’s a lot of good AND bad advice out there and I found it sometimes too easy to fall for the bad. My advice is to use the internet but to study a topic thoroughly and be cautious of companies or people who stand to profit from their advice or product – I’m not saying don’t buy, just be cautious and research.
Here’s a pathway you can take as you get your kitchen healthy, because if you are going to get or stay healthy through food, making friends with your kitchen is required – cooking at home is required. I rarely eat away from home.
1. Cut your eating out frequency down so that eventually you’re eating 90-100% of your meals at home. Eating out healthfully is a topic for another day but suffice it to say that you have to search to find healthy food in a restaurant and if you find one that is really healthy, the prices will be daunting. You have to start cooking and that doesn’t mean in a microwave. There is a lot of evidence out there now that microwaves change the chemical structures of food convert the healthiest of food into unhealthy. Start making friends with your stove and oven. I was about 4-5 years into my kitchen journey before I got rid of my microwave. I took it out of my kitchen but hung on to it for about 6 months before I was confident that I could do without it. It’s not so hard to heat a pan of water on the stovetop to make tea 😊.
· Next, look at the pots, pans you cook in and the pans that you bake in. Time to throw out the non-stick and aluminum cook and bakeware - they’re toxic! Trade them in for cast iron, glass and good quality stainless steel (made in USA). Really good quality stainless will cost a pretty penny, so American made cast iron and glass are the best options. I primarily use cast iron for sautéing and frying and glass for cooking in pots. I had to search the flea markets for glass pots/pans but I’m glad I did.
· Food storage containers is something that took me years to address – all those convenient plastic tubs and bags. How can one live without them? It’s not easy and I admit that I still have baggies in my house, but I do buy healthier ones without BHA and I always cool the food to room temperature before putting it in a baggie.
One day, I just tackled it and threw out ALL of the plastic storage tubs and slowly started buying good glass ones. Shop garage sales and flea markets for glass jars – they make good storage containers. That’s a significant investment so I would start buying slowly and when you have enough, take a day and get rid of the plastic. I was astounded at how many plastic containers I had.
Now, on to actual food –
· Try not to buy any processed food. Why? Because even if an item is “health food”, it probably includes ingredients that aren’t healthy. If you don’t understand the name of an ingredient, don’t buy it. Chemicals added to food aren’t healthy.
· Start buying whole food, items that don’t need a label because it’s only one food with no additives. Buy either fresh or frozen. Canned foods have depleted nutrients from processing and most cans leech chemicals into the food.
· Throw out all your spices – most of them are probably ancient anyhow. When I went through mine, I found I still had some that belonged to my mother in law and she’s been dead since 1996! Somehow, I thought that they were preserved in those cans. Replace them with small quantities of organic spices from a health food store that stocks bulk spices that you can buy in small amounts. I bought 2 and 4 oz. glass jars in the canning section of a supermarket-they work well and you can make your own labels.
But how about all those seasonings, which make of spice combinations, that we love?? You can find recipes to create them yourself on the internet. I’ve made a Cajun one I use all the time and have recipes for more but haven’t used them yet.
· Buy organic as much as possible. Herbicides, pesticides and GMO seeds cannot be used in organic foods, by regulation.
· Start looking for local food sources of milk, eggs, meat, produce. Make friends with local farmers. I was lucky enough to find a local farmer 6 years ago and started buying raw milk. Over the years, her farm products have expanded and now she can provide me with milk, cream, eggs, chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. I’ve been to her farm and know what she feeds her animals and how she cares for them. Farmers Markets are another good source but be cautious – not all local produce is organic – ask the grower what chemicals they use, if any.
· Shop at health food stores as much as you can afford. But know that everything in health food stores isn’t healthy and that you still have to be an astute shopper and label reader.
This list is a good start, but not comprehensive. I’ve created lists for myself and my clients and I’m happy to share with you – just go to my contacts page and send me an email.
And lastly, I know that this seems like an expensive proposition. Look for a future blog on “Eating Healthy on a Budget”. I help you determine the most important changes and prioritize the task list.