Great Gut Blog

Lets Get Cooking! How to Start Cooking for a Healthier Gut

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Lets Get Cooking! How to Start Cooking for a Healthier Gut

It’s a fact that if you want to help your gut, one of the best things you can do is start cooking at home. And when I say cooking, I mean far more than re-heating processed foods or microwaving a frozen meal. Good home cooking starts from raw ingredients. It allows us to control what goes into the food we eat.

But for many of us, cooking at home is daunting, for many reasons. Not knowing how is one, as is finding enough time in our already-busy lives. So I’m here with some advice and suggestions on how you can “get cooking!”

Lack of Know-How

Cooking is a skill, and fortunately, it’s an easy one to learn, as long as you aren’t going in with expectations of plating something that looks like it came from the kitchen of a 3-star Michelin guide restaurant. So, how do you learn to cook? Well, that depends on your preference.

Classes: Check your local community guides – you’ll likely find a number of folks teaching cooking, and many classes are quite affordable. That can be tricky right now because of the current health pandemic, so you can also look for virtual cooking classes on YouTube and your local public broadcasting stations.

Cookbooks: you really can teach yourself to cook by simply picking up a good general cookbook and simply following the directions of a recipe. Here’s a list of some of the best essential cookbooks out there:

  • The Joy of Cooking has been around since 1931, and is frequently updated to include new recipes, while still keeping thousands of old classic recipes.
  • The Good Housekeeping Cookbook first published in 1933 and like the Joy of Cooking, is kept updated and fresh.

If you can only afford one cookbook, make it one of the two above. If you’d like to start a small cookbook library, consider adding these:

  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child. This is considered a seminal book in terms of its influence on American cooking. And if you find Julia’s cooking TV shows on re-runs on public TV, they are well worth watching. Julia will teach you to approach cooking with gusto and joy.
  • Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. For those who love Italian food, here’s the book that’ll get you started on being able to cook your own.
  • The Intro to Mexican Cuisine, by Rick Bayless. We Americans love our Mexican cooking. This is another book written by an author that you can find on public TV.
  • The Seasonal Cooking Manifesto, by Judy Rodgers. This one will teach you how to approach cooking with an eye towards seasonal fruits and veggies.

Lack of Time

This is the other issue many face when it comes to cooking. Cooking does take time and preparation, but fortunately, modern technology has given us lots of options for shortening the length of time it takes to put together a good, home-cooked meal.

Faster Prep: Slicing and chopping can be time-consuming, but for many things, you can often find pre-prepped ingredients in your grocery store’s refrigerated aisle in the produce section. Yes, it’s more expensive, but if it allows you to cut back on eating out, you’ll likely find the cost evens out, and you’ll have the health benefits of eating less fast food and processed food. And don’t be afraid to use canned and frozen vegetables in recipes if it saves time!

Slow Cookers and Instant Pots/Pressurized Cookers: Nothing beats being able to toss ingredients into a pot, season, and then walk away and let it do its work.

Maximize leftovers: cook more than you need for a single meal, so that you’ll have something you can freeze and re-heat quickly later (slow cookers and Instant Pots are great for this). If you always do this, you’ll always have several different items in your freezer ready for eating, so no worries about growing tired of eating the same thing every night.

Meal Planning: take an hour to decide what you’re going to cook for the following week. Make your shopping list of what you don’t have in your pantry. And now is a great time to try having your groceries delivered. When you think of the time you save, the delivery fee and tip more than pays for itself. You can also plan when you’re going to cook. Many don’t have time to cook every day. Instead, block out a couple of hours each weekend to do your cooking and then refrigerate or freeze for the week to come.

Meal Subscriptions: these can be pricey, but again, if it takes the place of eating out, you may find the cost ends up being even, or may even save you money.

Cooking is one of the best ways you can start to get control over your gut health. Hopefully you’ve now got some ideas on how you, too, can incorporate more home-cooked meals into your life!


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