Spaghetti bolognese, roast chook, a stir-fry and variations on the old meat and three veg… do these meals sound similar to what’s in your cooking repertoire?
I would have thought most Aussies would be able to dish up at least a couple of these meals, but I’m continually amazed with how little some of us know about cooking.
This was brought to the fore last week when a long-term client of mine told me that I had given her “the freedom of food” – the simple act of learning to cook and how to be creative with food had freed her from the more unhealthy habits that had made keeping her weight under control a real battle. Of course, I was pretty chuffed. But it got me thinking…
If many of my clients were struggling to know how to cook a healthy meal, there must be many more people out there who are in the same boat, especially in a time where being overweight is a real problem. I was lucky – my mum taught me how to cook so that by the time I left home, I had a decent range of dishes I could use when I started fending for myself. We know that kids learn from their parents and we know from research that kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to enjoy healthy foods (even their veg!). So what happens when the parents don’t know how to cook a healthy meal and have no skills to pass on? How are kids to learn? Programs such as Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation are doing a fantastic job, but maybe we can all get involved in other ways and improve our skills together – it may not be as hard as you think.
I thought about the things my client and I had worked on and the fact that we didn’t really do anything extraordinary – no TAFE courses or fancy cooking classes. Every month she came to see me and we would pick a few recipes from the latest issue of Healthy Food Guide for her to cook – things she knew well or things she had never tried before. We also made a deal that on Sunday she would sit down and work out a rough plan for her meals for the week, write a shopping list and head to the supermarket so she felt prepared for the week ahead.
Slowly but surely she gained confidence in her cooking. She explained that before, her pantry was pretty much bare and now, it’s stocked with herbs and spices, sauces and flours – and she knows what to do with them! She’s now excited that she is not confined to grabbing takeaway on the way home from work. And not only does she know how to cook a few meals – she can take a recipe and turn it into a healthier one without too much thought.
By planning your meals, you know that when you do get home you’ll always have something on hand to have for dinner, even if it’s as simple as a vegie omelette. The other great spinoff about cooking more at home is that you can have leftovers to take for lunch the next day, or to freeze for another meal during the week. All of these simple tactics can save you from needing to reach for a not-so-healthy option.
So, I pose this as a challenge to you all. Every month, I want you to choose a few recipes to cook to expand your repertoire. Take a few moments to sit down and plan your meals for the week and develop a healthy shopping list. And, if you have kids, I challenge you to get them involved and to teach them a thing or two about cooking. Most importantly, please keep in touch and let me know how you are going! We’d love to see any pictures of the meals you have made, hear your comments, ideas or things that have worked with your family.