When I first realized I needed to completely overhaul our way of not only viewing but also preparing food, I was completely and totally overwhelmed. Yes, I’d been taught how to boil pasta. And I’d learned how to follow a recipe and cook a casserole.
But I had never really learned to cook.
Our variety of vegetables included salads from a bag and a frozen vegetable here and there that we would steam in the microwave. Every once in awhile if we were getting really fancy, I’d steam some fresh green beans, in a plastic Tupperware steamer, also in the microwave.
Are you sensing a theme?
Needless to say, learning how to cook whole foods from scratch was completely new. And entirely overwhelming.
If you’re like me and completely new to whole food preparation, I’d love to teach you some of the tricks I’ve learned along the way. Here are my top five tips for converting to a whole food based lifestyle:
STEP 1: TOOLS
A whole food kitchen starts with just that: whole food. But let’s talk for a minute about what we’re going to be using in order to cook and prepare that whole food–oils and pans.
Because I was dealing with the quick and sudden onset of what would be labeled “chronic illness,” I had to convert my kitchen fast.
We swapped out all the oils in our home for cold pressed virgin coconut oil (we buy ours from BJ’s) and threw out our non-stick pans for cast iron. Thankfully I had my grandmother’s cast iron on hand and could get to learning how to use it quickly. I’ll cover both these topics in more detail in a future post, but for now, take stock of what oils and pans you’re using in your home. If you’ve got standard American oils (like canola or soy) and teflon pans, you might consider swapping these out sooner rather than later.
If you don’t have access to an extra cast iron pan from your grandmother’s kitchen, estate sales, yard sales, and thrift shops can be places to go looking or you can find pans like a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder, 12-inch, or their smaller 10 1/4″ pan.
Stainless steel pans are another option with various price points.
If you’re thrifting/garage saling for pans, take a magnet with you. If it sticks to the pan, it’s worth a buy.
STEP 2: CHANGING PERSPECTIVE
When I first started out, I had to really work on my mindset regarding food. I had all these preconceived notions about what food should be instead of what it really is: FUEL. Food is fuel for these amazing, miraculous things we call bodies. Once we get our minds wrapped around that, it becomes a little easier to wrestle through what we want to put in our bodies.
And I mean wrestle.
Because if you are or have been an emotional eater like most of us, you know exactly what I mean.
If we can keep the perspective of fueling our bodies with energy that moves us toward health, we can come to grips with the concept that it’s ok to have vegetables or steak or soup for breakfast.
Our morning meal doesn’t have to include grain or come from a box or a bag that’s been sealed shut in a factory by a machine and some hot glue. Breakfast can take on colors and textures and be full of protein, healthy fats, and fruit or vegetables.
FOOD IS FUEL. There’s no such thing as a food that’s only relegated to a certain time of the day.
STEP 3: KEEP MEALS SIMPLE
Oh sweet simplicity. I’ve had so many people ask me if I love cooking. They are very surprised when I tell them no. No. I do not love cooking as a general rule. But I do love feeling good and having our kids feel good and knowing that I’m fueling their growing bodies and brains with real, whole food that was designed to benefit them.
So I learned to cook.
And I and learned to enjoy the peace that comes from eating food designed to go with our physiology.
I learned how to create meal foundations and build around those. You can read more about that here.
STEP 4: MASTERING (BASIC) BONE BROTH
If you have read anything at all about reclaiming your health, you’ve probably read about bone broth. It was literally THE hot wellness topic not that long ago. While it’s claimed recent internet fame, it’s been around far longer than that. You can find hundreds of different bone broth recipes in books and online. Some are better than others and the more you can add to your broth, the tastier and deeper the flavor will become.
Once you’ve mastered the process, don’t be hesitant to teach family members (including older children) how to do this. It relieves your mental and physical load and teaches them a life skill they can use well into the future.
You can find help on how to start here.
STEP 5: VEGETABLES–LOVE ‘EM, DON’T LEAVE ‘EM
Converting a processed food household to a whole food household is no joke. Growing up, I was never a veggie lover. Truth be told, my kids had always eaten more veggies than me. I struggled to truly enjoy them until I discovered roasting.
Roasting is a GAME CHANGER for vegetables and SUPER EASY.
Steamed cauliflower? You won’t catch me touching it with a 10′ pole, but our whole house will eat it roasted. And the good news? Roasting is basically the same regardless of the vegetable.
For nearly every veggie out there:
Crank up the heat (375-425 deg F)
Slather on some coconut oil, ghee, or the high heat oil/fat of your choice
Salt, pepper, plus seasonings if you’re getting fancy
Let ’em cook until done to your liking
Really. It’s that easy.
So there you have five basics for your whole food kitchen.
1: Replace your oils and cookware
2: Develop a food as fuel mindset
3: Keep meals simple
4: Master the process of basic broth
5: Start those veggies roasting
Meal foundations are the beginning of quick and nutritious freedom in your kitchen. Broth is the beginning of an endless wealth of soups, stews, delicious rices, sauteed veggies, or gravies. Roasted veggies are just an easy and delicious way to add in nutrition and variety.
Is there one step that you can take this week? Which one will be the easiest for you? Start there.
I hope this post encourages you to get going in your kitchen. Need more support or encouragement? Let me know. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
To your wellness,