Cooking healthfully and exploring from-scratch cooking is one of the most straightforward and remarkably simple ways to instantly increase the nutrition and deliciousness of your meals. Simple from-scratch cooking is a fundamental part of what we teach at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition because it can be challenging to support optimal health with pre-packaged and processed foods, restaurant meals, or takeout. We realize that healthier cooking can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be!
That’s why we’re proud to introduce Everyday Culinary Nutrition, which takes the overwhelm out of cooking from scratch and shows you how to make simple, healthful recipes in your kitchen. You can grab all of the course details here, but in the meantime, we’re sharing some initial steps you can take to get started with healthier cooking at home. By using basic techniques, budget-friendly ingredients, and easy recipes you’ll become a homemade pro in no time!
9 Health Benefits of Cooking From Scratch
There are many reasons to love cooking from scratch. It allows you to:
- Control the ingredients that go into your food, which means averting excess sugar, salt, processed oils, preservatives, artificial and natural flavours, and food dyes
- Eliminate common allergens like gluten, dairy, or other ingredients you may be allergic or intolerant to
- Reduce packaging waste
- Bond with family members and teach them essential cooking skills
- Explore new flavours and local ingredients
- Explore seasonal ingredients
- Feel empowered to take an active role in your own health
- Find calm in the quiet mindful, sensory experience of cooking
- Enjoy eating delicious foods!
5 Simple Steps To Help You Get Started With healthier Cooking
There is no one ‘right’ path to mastering healthier cooking, and what you pursue first may depend on your skill level, commitment to set time aside, and your willingness to explore and try new things. However, if you’d like to pursue cooking from scratch, these are some key steps you can take to get started.
1. Think about the types of foods you love to eat
Start off by learning to make the foods you love to eat from scratch. For example, if you’ve been buying a lot of tomato sauce, hummus, gluten-free bread, crackers, salad dressings, or whatever else you consume on a regular basis, prioritize finding recipes for those types of foods.
Make a list of the top store-bought foods you’d like to learn to make from scratch and keep your list small to start with – about three to five foods. If you love dairy-free chocolate or pizza or French fries, that’s OK too – there are many ways to make those recipes much more nutritious than what you’d find in packages at the grocery store.
2. Find simple recipe inspiration
If you’re new to healthier cooking, a recipe that calls for 25 ingredients, multiple tools, and 2 hours of your time is probably not the best place to start. No need to make healthy eating complicated. Look for easy recipes – or basic recipe templates – that you can customize based on your tastes and what you can find in your area. There are many simple recipes you can peruse, but here are a few to check out:
- 8 Packaged Staple Foods You Can Easily Make From Scratch
- 6 Essential Elements of a Recipe-Free Dinner Bowl
- 12 Family-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together
- 20 Best One-Pot Meals
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Soup Recipes
- 20 Best Meatless Monday Recipes
- 22 Best Gluten-Free Noodle Recipes
- 25 Best 30-Minute Meals
3. Take stock of your pantry
It’s much easier to cook nutritious foods from scratch when you have a well-stocked pantry you can draw upon. The amount of variety you can create with minimal, fresh ingredients is huge when you have key herbs and spices in your pantry. Open up your pantry and see what you have, then compare to what you need to create the recipes you want.
Building a solid pantry doesn’t have to be intimidating – check out these tips to building a basic culinary nutrition pantry.
4. Invest in basic tools
Image: Caroline Attwood on Unsplash
You don’t need a lot of equipment to try healthier cooking at home. You can make quite a bit with just a knife, cutting board, and a big pot or cast-iron pan. Check out these 5 kitchen basics and then add to your culinary supply as needed. Some people like to buy equipment like a slow cooker, blender or Instant Pot, while others prioritize baking sheets or loaf pans.
Once you start cooking from scratch on a regular basis, what you need will become apparent. Not all tools need to be brand new, either – check out thrift stores, online classified sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji, or even online ‘buy nothing’ groups for some unexpected goodies.
5. Choose fresh, local ingredients when possible to cook with
Fresh fruit and vegetables are going to taste better when they’re in season (asparagus just isn’t going to taste that great in December). Look for vegetables that are grown locally, as they’ll travel shorter distances from the farm to your plate, which will increase their flavour and make them last longer in the fridge. And, you’ll likely be more excited to cook with ingredients that taste great!
ready to dive into healthier cooking?
Once you feel confident in your basic skills, you can learn additional handy cooking techniques like meal prepping, batch cooking, optimal food storage, how to reduce food waste, how to adapt recipes for special dietary needs, and more.
Healthier cooking doesn’t need to be daunting. With these simple steps, you’ll feel confident mastering from-scratch cooking at home and be able to reap the delicious benefits.
Images: Dragana Paramentic