Cook Healthy and Enjoy It!

What comes to mind when you think about cooking? What about meal prepping? Or how about healthy eating options?

Are you someone who gets excited and energized by the idea of cooking? Do you find it fun and relaxing? Or is this whole concept a little fuzzy, and something the you find overwhelming and stressful?

I was definitely in the second camp for many, many years. Sure, I could find healthy and delicious recipes like no other. My Pinterest boards were full of fast and healthy meals, but I can count on one hand the number of times I made those happen. 

So what changed? The biggest shift was in my mindset – I learned to look at cooking as an experiment, and just started practicing! Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Sometimes it wasn't even good! But over the years I've learned how to work with natural flavors, spice things appropriately and most of all how to follow mean recipe. 

Now I'll admit, it definitely helps that my husband is a chef – he's shown me a few tricks, and he is an amazing help when it comes to chopping veggies and whipping up sauces when we're meal prepping. And for a while, I got into the habit of finding my healthy recipes and asking the hubs to prepare them. There is something nice about sitting back and playing DJ with a glass of wine while a professional chef makes you healthy, delicious meals (I'm a lucky lady, I'll be the first to admit!), it never felt quite as good as making my own food, or sharing the cooking with Jonathan.  

So I've stepped up to the plate, and in doing so I created my best strategies and mindset tips to cook healthy and – dare I say – actually enjoy it. 

  1. Approach cooking with curiosity. Remind yourself that failure isn't on the table. Even if you burn something or it doesn't taste great, try to approach cooking with the mindset that it's all an experiment, and stay curious to see where it'll end up.
  2. Google It. Almost every time I cook, I realize I forgot something at the store or that I thought we had more of something than we did. So I turn to Google and enter 'substations for X in X.' It's not always perfect, but it turns every 
  3. Accept that it's not going to look like Pinterest. When my husband makes meals, he plates them and prepares them nicely, even when we're at home. Not me. If it tastes good and is fully cooked, I'll eat it and be thrilled! Now, if you're someone who loves the aesthetics of food or is all about posting your meals on Instagram, then by all means style your plates. But don't let yourself feel like you've failed if it doesn't look just like the picture in the recipe. Food should taste good – anything else is just a bonus.
  4. Start with what you love. Do you really hate broccoli or brussel sprouts? Or maybe sweet potatoes or coconut oil make you cringe. We've all got foods that we don't like, and I fully believe that you shouldn't force yourself to eat something you hate. Especially when you're first beginning to cook healthy meals, it's so important to start where you're at and build from there. Maybe that means making a list of your favorite vegetables and searching for recipes that feature them, or perhaps brainstorming two or three of your favorite meals and experimenting with different ways to make them healthier. Try switching starchy pasta for a whole wheat or quinoa version, or experiment with making a dairy-free version of your favorite sauce. Maybe add some greens to your favorite casserole, or add broccoli, peppers and asparagus to a macaroni and cheese. 
  5. Cook once, eat twice. Instead of making one meal, make 3-4 meals! You can freeze or refrigerate your leftovers and use them for lunches or dinner later in the week. Stir-fry leftovers become wrap fillings or salad toppers, extra waffles can be frozen for quick breakfasts and smoothie leftovers make great afternoon snacks. 
  6. Prep the labor intensive stuff. For those of us with crazy busy schedules, it's important to make meal time easy. Especially if you don't find cooking to be relaxing – which is totally okay! Set aside a 1-2 hour block of time each week to chop veggies, make a big batch of grains, prep and cook any proteins (tempeh, beans, meat, etc.) and make a few dressings and sauces. All of the sudden, you've got a bunch of prep done that will allow you to heat and combine your meals in 10 minutes or less.

Like anything new, you will get better and more confident the more you practice. Using some of these mindset shifts and learning to laugh at yourself and have fun with cooking is an epic first step to enjoying the process! 

Which of these tips resonates most with you? Do you have any healthy tricks to make your favorite recipes a little better for you?