Stop running away from it. We have all made at least one of these common excuses:
– I don’t have time to cook
– I don’t know how/like to cook
– My husband/kids are not going to eat this
– But I can’t give up my love for chocolate/coffee/wine/cupcakes
– I don’t have time for exercise
OK, so let’s debunk these mysteries, one at a time
I don’t have time to cook –
Reality check: nobody expects you to start cooking every single meal from scratch.
That would be crazy – I don’t have time for that either. Instead start by cooking those meals that you don’t have to get done under time pressure (don’t start making omelets for breakfast if you barely make it to work on time). For me, that was dinners. Easy 30-minute dinners (see 5BitesInAHurry).
– Start with easy recipes that don’t call for 27 ingredients, but stick to shorter lists.
– Allow yourself to get a little help from a premade, store bought ingredient (like frozen pizza dough, topped with fresh crushed tomatoes, cheese, and fresh spinach, basil and garlic).
– Plan ahead – at least the night before – so you don’t find yourself staring in the fridge at 6pm, waiting for inspiration, while the kids are nagging for a snack. Defrost that chicken overnight, lay out the recipe (if needed) and check if you have everything on hand. You may even have time to chop that onion and some veggies, and put it in a ziplock baggie the night before.
– Buy a crockpot, if you don’t already own one, and start using that baby. It’s such a great time saver. We’ve had one for years, collecting dust, and are finally learning how to use it right. I still don’t like to cook veggies in it because I like them crisp, not overcooked, but it’s a great tool for making super tender meat dishes like a whole chicken, pork shoulder, or beef roast.
– Revive the casserole. It’s gotten a bad rep as one of those awful childhood meals, but there’s a better way than chicken, rice, and cream of mushroom (Yuck!). Casseroles are a time saver because you throw all your ingredients in one dish, pop it in the oven and use the next 25 minutes to help your kid with homework, fold a load of laundry or even a little yoga session.
I love my One-Pot cookbook for just that reason. Modify the recipes to include whole grains, whole milk dairy, and natural sweeteners instead of sugar.
I don’t know how to cook / I don’t like to cook –
Reality check: nobody was born a chef and you’re not expected whip up gourmet meals by tomorrow.
Most people don’t like to cook because they don’t know how. Allow yourself to be a beginner – no one starts off being excellent. That pretty much goes for this entire journey to a healthier way of life.
– Don’t let failure stop you from trying. So you’ve burnt your fair share of meals, and? I’ve messed up tons of recipes, even when I followed them step by step. But I also got some right, and those few times that you get it right will make you feel like a rock star. Don’t give up because the first 3 times you fail. The 4th time may be the winner
– Get your husband, kids, or friends to help. Start by cooking on the weekends or whenever you’re off from work and have more time. Ask your friends or coworkers to share their favorite (healthy, homemade) recipes with you and invite them for a cooking demo in your kitchen. Let them show you how, have a glass of wine. You’ll be less intimidated by having your friend teach you instead of a chef instructor.
– Don’t be scared of fresh food. I know some people won’t touch raw fish or chicken or deal with anything that still has a head on it. That’s ok – you don’t have to start cooking a whole fish, and you can wear rubber gloves when you cook chicken if it makes you feel more at ease.
You can also start by getting a whole rotisserie chicken (preferably organic), and just make the home cooked side dishes, like mashed potatoes, or mashed cauliflower.
– If you don’t like to cook, start by trying to make your favorite dish from scratch. So you love Stouffer’s Lasagna? Wait until you make your first own lasagna, and it comes out of the oven smelling like you’re in Italy. And the best part? It’s all made from real, fresh ingredients, so there’s no guilt like you have it after you finish the Stouffer’s pack. And YOU made it. YOU!
– Find like-minded cooking novices in your circle of friends (or find a MeetUp group), and go to a cooking class. Maybe just once a week. Surrounding yourself with others that also don’t know how to cook will take the edge of not knowing what you’re doing (yet). It is also a fabulous way to cook up (pun intended) some great new friendships to nourish your mind and soul. That, by the way is also a major part of wellness.
My husband / kids are not going to eat this.
I agree that it is difficult to switch your eating habits when the rest of your gang is not on board with it. It can be a total downer when you’ve made a great healthy meal, and instead of hearing Thanks, mom! You get a “what’s this? – I don’t like it – I’m not hungry” as a response. It can be discouraging, but you won’t let that happen! Here’s how:
– Tell them what you’re doing and why. Get their support and understanding and let them know that the changes will be in small steps.
– If your kids love chicken nuggets, don’t take that away and force them to eat coq au vin. Instead modify the chicken nuggets. Maybe your first step is to buy “healthier” ones with simple ingredients and whole wheat breading. The next step would be to make your own (so simple and so yummy!). The point is to convert their current acceptable foods to better, healthier versions. Once they eat that, then take on the next step.
– The same goes for your husband/partner. Don’t shock them cold turkey with a whole new pantry because you’ll only fuel resentment. Start out by turning one of his favorites dishes into a better version. Start adding some fresh cut veggies in his lunchbox as well
– Ask them what they don’t like. Is it the texture, the color, the flavor, or the taste? They may not know the answer and say they don’t like it because it’s something new and unknown. Make them try a few bites and maybe for the first few times, have a plan B ready (breakfast for dinner…eggs anyone?)
– Don’t give up. Keep trying. It takes time, but the first time your kids say “that was yummy!” you will feel sooo proud. Trust me – I did, too.
I don’t want to have to give up my donuts, cupcakes, chocolate, wine, _____ (insert your vice here)
One of the biggest misconceptions about eating healthy is that you’re not allowed to have anything that’s yummy, sweet, creamy, and crunchy. WRONG! You can have it, but you will learn not to want it.
– You’ve heard this one before: Everything in moderation. It’s true, but what is moderation?
Having 2 donuts a week instead of 4 is not moderation. Having a donut only for a special occasion (like one every 2 weeks) – that’s more like it. The key is to recognize that you’re not going to ruin EVERYTHING you worked for just because you have a donut after being so good for 2 weeks.
– Don’t start out by saying to yourself “I want that donut but you can’t have it”. The key is to shift your thinking to “I CAN have that donut, but I don’t want it!” Did you notice something? Read this point again.
Next time you have that mouth watering challenge of the donut right there in front of you, say this in your head: “I can have it, but I don’t want it.” And walk away. It will be hard in the beginning, but once you start weaning yourself off the excess amounts of sugar, then you won’t want it so much anymore.
– Find a better alternative. As I mentioned in point 4 above, if you can’t say goodbye to one of your favorite (but bad for you) foods, find a way to make a healthier version by yourself. You can bake your own donuts with whole wheat or spelt flour, sub the sugar with honey or maple syrup, and bake instead of fry. Drizzle it with some simple chocolate syrup and you’ll have much less guilty deliciousness.
– A lot of our cravings are your body’s way to tell you that it’s lacking certain nutrients. You may have see this chart before (insert link to chart), and there’s truth to that. Your body has an amazing way to tell you that it needs something; we just need to learn to speak the same language. The key is to feed your body nutrients, and not just empty calories. Sure, you’ll feel full and (temporarily) satisfied, but you didn’t give your body what it needed, you gave your mind what it wanted.
– I am still looking for the 5th bite to complete this one
I don’t have time to exercise:
Reality check: very similar to the first point (no time to cook): nobody expects you to hit the gym 5 days a week for 1 hour each time. But you can start somewhere. In all honesty, this one is still the hardest one for me as well. I totally recognize the importance of it and I feel Ah-mazing after a nice swim or a yoga session, but I will still live if I don’t exercise – as opposed to going hungry if I don’t eat. So how are we both gonna make time for some physical activity?
– Start small. 10-15 minutes a day is not going to mess up your daily routine. I recently started getting out of bed right when the alarm goes off instead of snoozing for 10 more minutes. These 10 minutes are used for “morning yoga” that wakes up my body more than the shower ever did! You can build up from there, going to 15 minutes, or adding a 10-minute “wind down yoga” before you go to bed. I just google yoga videos on YouTube until I can afford my personal yogi
– Take the stairs. Every time. Park in the furthest spot from the store, so you’ll walk some more (bonus: you don’t have to stress over finding the perfect spot or fight another driver for it).
Get up for a glass of water every hour (instead of having a giant bottle at your desk). Set a timer if you’re prone to forget to hydrate. My point here is: you can fit some physical activity in your everyday moments.
– Schedule the time. I have wanted to go back to yoga for so long, I even knew when there were classes at my local Y, but I always found an excuse not to go. I now told my husband and my friends that from now on, every Sunday at 2:30pm I am going to yoga. And he’ll remind me
– It doesn’t have to be yoga, or running, or kickboxing… but you can do power walking, or zumba, or volleyball, or just chase your kids around the playground for 15 minutes. Find something that you enjoy because if exercising feels like a chore, you won’t ever look forward to it.
– Find a partner or a group of likeminded beginners. Peer pressure can work in a very positive way when you don’t feel like going. Your friends will hopefully remind you and make sure to drag you off the couch. And again, working towards a goal in the company of good friends will lift your mood and spirits for another step closer to wellness.