5 Reasons That Cooking is the Most Paleo of Habits
WHEN YOU FIRST START A PALEO DIET, there are a million things to think about and read about.
Stop eating grains. Avoid dairy. Eat grass-fed meat. Avoid processed sugar.
Lots of good advice.
But there’s one very basic thing that no one seems to tell you…
Cooking is the BEST Paleo habit you can develop.
A History Lesson…
Although some humans were able to control fire about 400,000 years ago, many weren’t able to do so until about 100,000 years ago. That means, for most of history, humans ate raw food.
Personally, I don’t think means that we need to eat raw food. Cooking is not very detrimental, and I really like the safety and hygiene that comes with cooking.
And yet, for the past 30-40 years, there has been a steady decline in time spent cooking. As of 2011, the average American spent just 31 minutes per day on food preparation.
Traditional cultures spend a lot of time preparing their food, but TV dinners, restaurants, and pre-packaged meals have largely changed that.
I, like many folks, don’t think that change has been for the good overall.
Here are 5 Reasons Why It’s Incredibly Important to Cook on a Paleo Diet
1. It’s Just Healthier.
This is the most important reason, by far, to start cooking more often.
When you eat out or buy prepared food, you might know most of what’s going into that food, but probably not everything. By eating food that you don’t cook yourself, you’ll likely be eating a few ingredients that you’d be better off without.
For instance, very few restaurants actually use healthy cooking oils. Most still rely on Canola Oil or other vegetable oils that are loaded with unhealthy Omega-6 fats that quickly oxidize when heated. Not Paleo at all.
Cooking changes everything because you know exactly what you’re putting into the food you’re cooking.
2. Cooking Brings You Closer to Your Food.
This is a little “touchy-feely,” but bear with me.
Having a healthy relationship with your food is about more than just eating the right foods. It’s about appreciating what you have and using it to nourish and heal your body.
In an ideal world, we would all be more involved in actually growing our food, but we don’t live in that ideal world. The next-best option is to be involved in the preparation and cooking of your food.
Being intimately involved in the preparation of your food (by cooking it), makes you not only more knowledgeable about the ingredients, it also makes you more grateful and observant.
It’s easy to take food for granted when it’s delivered straight to your table. It’s much harder to do so when you spent some time getting it there.
3. Cooking Makes Kids Much More Interested In and Excited About Food.
I don’t have children, but I think it’s critical that we change the way that the next generation views and approaches food.
- It makes your kids much more interested in and knowledge about what they’re eating; and
- It makes them more likely to eat healthy foods that they might otherwise turn down.
It also provides them with a skill-set (cooking) that will help them stay healthy when they venture out on their own.
4. Cooking Keeps You From Cheating.
Most of us think that occasional cheating is OK. But that’s not the point.
If you’re going to cheat, it should be an intentional and conscious decision rather than an inability to muster enough willpower to make a healthier choice.
Cooking is an awesome solution to this problem. If you cook ahead of time, then it becomes much easier to eat healthy and Paleo instead of grabbing some takeout or delivery. We actually cook enough food on Sundays to last us for the rest of the week.
Being healthy is all about making the best decisions possible, and if you don’t have healthy food around, you’re that much more likely to make a bad decision at some point when you’re hungry and tired.
5. Cooking is Meditative.
For some of you, this may not be true at first, especially if you get really stressed about cooking. But once you get started, cooking is both relaxing and calming.
Like most menial tasks, it allows your brain to relax and focus on the task at hand. With cooking, though, there’s also something more. The gentle aromas and the sight of whole, delicious ingredients settles down your otherwise over-burdened and over-worked mind.
I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Paleo Cooking can be Much Easier than You Think
I know, I know – cooking is tough.
It takes time and energy that you often don’t have, right?
How to Make Cooking Paleo Easier
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips that I have personally found to be very helpful:
1. Get a Slow-Cooker (aka Crockpot).
This should be your new best friend. There are already books like Paleo Slow Cooking and sites like PaleoPot that have all sorts of tips and recipes specifically designed for using a slow-cooker.
In general, when you cook with a slow-cooker, all you have to do is dump in a bunch of ingredients and then leave it to cook for 8-10 hours (typically while you sleep or are at work). It really doesn’t get any easier, and you can make enough food to last for many meals.
Here’s the slow-cooker that I have (which I found to be the best bang for your buck).
2. Start Simple.
This sounds like the most obvious advice ever. And it is.
Still, most people who hop in the kitchen for the first time inexplicably start out with recipes that are too complicated.
Even the best chefs in the world test out new chefs by having them cook things like scrambled eggs, just to see if they’ve got the basics down.
There’s an added benefit to starting with simple recipes (beyond just being easier) – you’ll quickly learn to appreciate each ingredient. When you first start out, it can be very tough to appreciate the difference certain spices or vegetables will make. However, if your recipes have only 3-5 ingredients, then you will quickly learn how much of a difference each ingredient will or won’t make.
3. Cook Ahead of Time.
If there’s one habit that I could get the world to engage in, it would be meditation. If there is a second one, it would be cooking ahead of time.
It’s absolutely inevitable that you’re often going to be tired and hungry when you get home from work. The likelihood is that you’re probably going to make some bad decisions if you’re planning on cooking when you’re tired and hungry.
The solution is to cook ahead of time and store/refrigerate meals for the future. From chili to boiled eggs to stir-frys, we always make sure that we have food available before we want it.
I’ve been Paleo for a very long time, and I as good as I am at making healthy choices, the times I eat the worst are always when I don’t have healthy Paleo food readily available.
Much of the rest of this issue is devoted to topics closely related to cooking, because it’s just too important of an issue not to talk about.
Remember, though, that like everything else, it can also be a lot of fun. Learning new skills and mastering new dishes can bring rewards beyond just eating healthier.
Now get out there and cook!
Let Us Know
What’s your favorite recipe to cook?