If You Want To Be Healthy, You Need To Cook

If you want to be in good health, you need to cook...at least some of your meals...at least some of the time. Unless, of course, you can pay for a personal chef (that’s also trained in nutrition!).

Here’s why:

1. Eating out

When you eat out, you literally have NO IDEA what is being put into your food. You have no idea what cooking oils are being used. You have no idea what condiments are being added. You just don’t know.

Several studies have shown that healthcare professionals can’t even satisfactorily estimate the nutrient content of a meal; they can be off by hundreds of calories. It’s just too hard to guess what went into the finished product of a meal without observing the cooking process.

In addition to not knowing what’s in our food, we also can’t adequately estimate portion sizes. One study found that we tend to eat 30-50% more at restaurants than we would at home.

Not surprisingly, it follows that the more frequently you eat out, the more likely you are to carry excess pounds. This suggests that when we eat out, we are overloading our systems with calories that we don’t need and can’t put to work. [And, honestly, it’s not really about the excess weight - it’s about what the weight tells us about the behavior of eating out a lot].

2. Packaged foods

When you eat packaged foods, you are exposed to something that’s been highly processed. And I’m not talking about canned vegetables! In many cases, it’s been through several rounds of processing before it reaches your kitchen - grinding, bleaching, sterilizing and so forth. Doesn’t that all sound so yummy? Next come the additives, preservatives, food colorings and so much more. In addition to adding a lot of junk that you don’t need, the processing also “pre-digests” the food for you, making it really quick and easy to digest. That sounds like a good thing, but the net effect is to spike your blood sugar pretty profoundly. Blood sugar dysregulation can lead to a whole host of problems, not the least of which is diabetes, PCOS and period problems.

There is no daily requirement for packaged foods in your diet. They are purely a convenience and an indulgence. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for - but try not to make it your default all day every day. [And, of course, not all packaged food is the dregs. Plain, microwaveable vegetables, beans and rice or steel cut oats are great quick-prep options without all of the additives. I’m talking about the cookies and cakes and chips and mixes and sugar-laden beverages - the “non-food” food that you find in the supermarket, not in the ground.]

Most importantly, though, you can’t delegate your health to others. Cooking is one basic way to take control back. You get to decide the quality of your ingredients. You get to decide how much or how little seasoning you add. You get to decide the appropriate portion size for your appetite that day. When you cook, you take the reins back. (And you don't need be a cooking whiz either, so don't make this about that). Basic cooking skills are a critical tool in the toolbox of an aspiring healthy person.

Cooking may feel like a chore, but it’s really a source of freedom. Freedom to control your destiny...multiple times per day...every single day. Mmmm...control never tasted so good.