“the very process of cooking can nourish your psychological wellbeing” Psychology Today
Did you ever think that slicing and dicing your vegetables can ease your anxiety and lower your depression & stress levels? Well according to mental health experts it can. It is a sensory experience with taste, touch, aroma, sound and visual delight. Cooking not only activates the senses, it can also boost your self-esteem. I felt I never had the patience for cooking. I used to loathe having to cook. It felt like such a waste of my time. I’d rather be doing something else. Seriously. My family joked I could burn a salad!
It took a mindset switch to view cooking for all the healthy benefits gained, from it being just another boring household chore on my list. Following my husband’s stroke, I wanted to find out all I could about how food could help with his recovery. And boy was I stressed at this time. It could have been a disaster. Everything could have ended up burnt! But no. I was determined, so in addition to studying to become a certified Health Coach, I read books and reports on the connection between food, the body and the brain.
Our thought belief was that food was simply the body’s fuel. Protein for our muscles, carbohydrates for energy and fat was the enemy depositing unwanted amounts on our bum belly and thighs. It is so much more than that. There is a direct line of communication between the digestive system and the brain – known as the gut-brain axis. Our body is reading the food we ingest. There is a three-way interaction going on between food, the bugs that live in our gut (our microbiome) and our immune system.
Food is not just about nourishing the body, it can nourish the soul too.
If Coronavirus lockdown has you feeling a bit overwhelmed and out of control, take back that control in the kitchen. I keep my recipes simple, quick & easy with minimal ingredients. You could plan a themed night based around a meal. Mexican with tacos and fajitas, Spanish with Paella, Indian or Thai curry night and so on. Cooking is a great way to show love. It can be nurturing, bring happiness and is a great way of connecting to others. It can bond us beyond the actual eating.
Spend some time to find recipes that look delicious and healthy. There are plenty on line and social media and even video tutorials on YouTube. Make out a weekly meal plan then make a list for the shop so you have all the ingredients at home. Now the fun begins and you are ready to start cooking!. Pour a glass of wine or play your favourite tunes in the background. Make it fun. If you are able, get the family involved too. Perhaps they could chop and peel whilst you cook. You may prefer the peacefulness of a quiet kitchen with just the sound of the sauce simmering away. Make it work for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Nothing is right or wrong. Just go with it and use your instinct.
Meal planning is a great way to take the stress out of wondering what to cook in the coming days or week. Reduce your time wondering aimlessly around the kitchen opening up cupboards and the fridge looking for inspiration. It is a great way to plan for healthy meals, same time and money. Meal planning lets you decide before you ever go to the grocery store what healthy meals you and your family are going to eat during a given week so that you can only purchase healthy foods and know that you will use them. Meal planning also ensures you get a variety of food in your diet. This is good for our digestive health and exposes us to a range of nutrients. As you’ve heard me mention before, our gut microbiome likes a varied diet.
Rather than starting from scratch each week I have a rough plan of what I will cook each week. It looks a bit like this:
- 1 stir fry
- 1 -2 chicken meals
- 2-3 vegetarian meals
- 1-2 pasta meals
- 1-2 prepare ahead oven meals
- 2 fish meals
With warmer sunnier weather I include more salads and always buy fresh local produce whenever possible.
Batch cooking is also a great way to save time. Often it is just as easy to make double the amount you require and freeze half. It can save money too as often there is a better deal buying in larger quantities. Why make one shepherd’s pie when you can make two and freeze one? See, easy. And of course, I do love a one pan meal. Less washing up.
Cooking gives us a sense of purpose. It imposes order and takes us away from the anxiety and overwhelm we may be feeling with a new focus.
Unleash your creativity and don’t just cook to eat.
Your health is your wealth and you are your greatest asset