If you hate to cook, you’re not alone: in 2012, over 700,000 tweets involved the terms love to eat and/or hate to cook. I was one of those tweeters on more than one occasion (way more than one). So what’s the deal? Why does cooking make so many of us utterly miserable?
When asked to choose her biggest pet peeve about cooking, Stefanie Shuman, 29, a PR Manager in New York City, struggles to pick just one. ”I’d say the issue’s time,” she says, “But on weekends when I could carve out an hour to prep/cook, it’s the last thing I want to do.”
You’re preaching to the choir, sister.
When I was younger, I thought I’d never find anything I despise more than cleaning… until I moved into my first apartment, looked at the kitchen and thought to myself, “What the expletive am I supposed to do in here?!” I know I need to suck it up and build healthier eating habits – admit it, you do too. Lucky for you, I hunted down a group of fabulous health experts to throw us a frickin’ bone here.
“There’s a strong notion that cooking means dirtying multiple pots and leaving the kitchen a mess,” explains Cathy Leman, Registered & Licensed Dietitian and Personal Trainer in Glen Ellyn, IL, “When actually, the process can be dramatically simplified.”
Here are 9 simple steps you can use to turn up the heat (and turn down the drama) in your kitchen:
1. Let Go of Misconceptions
I’m not going to lie – when I think about having to cook, Psycho Strings starts playing in the background. But like Cathy mentioned, cooking has the potential to become what you want it to be.
Do your absolute best to set aside the fact that you hate to cook, and let go of the feeling that cooking is a messy time-suck and kitchen assassinator.
Imagine the cooking experiences you’d prefer having, and start making plans to create them.
2. Have the Right Tools on Hand
“No spatula? Darn! Guess I’ll have to order in.” (Me during my 20s.)
Don’t give yourself reasons to back out of cooking, such as not having the right kitchen utensils available for the job. When you have the right tools, it makes cooking easier and ultimately less stressful.
3. Ease Into It
Start with simple meals that use the fewest ingredients possible and work your way up to more complex recipes. Try new recipes when there’s no chance of a time crunch (such as on weekends) so you can remake recipes that might not come out as planned.
According to Certified Personal Trainer Amy Clover, you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to make healthy meals, and I’ve decided to believe her.
4. Relate Food to Fashion
I hate to cook, but I do love fashion.
“I find fashion websites to be great encouragement for food,” suggests Gina Keatley, CDN, award-winning dietitian and American Diabetes Ambassador. “The colors mirror each other and a bright yellow purse can get you motivated to try caramelized bananas.”
It’s a fun way to start making food a part of your every day thought process.
5. Think PVF
When making dinner, think PVF: Protein, Veggies and (healthy) Fat. Doing your best to make sure these elements are on your plate make for consistently balanced meals.
“Save time by purchasing pre-cut and pre-washed veggies,” says Amy.
6. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Make double portions when you cook so you have lunch for the next day.
Cassie Ho, a California-based fitness instructor, cooks a whole week’s worth of food every Sunday: “I just put it in Tupperware and refrigerate. When I need a meal, bam! It’s already made. All it needs is microwaving.”
7. Make It An Event
Make it a girls’ night in with the mission of trying a challenging recipe together. (Just make sure you have delivery on speed dial in case… and perhaps the fire department.)
8. Buy Frozen Dinners
Not all frozen dinners are bad for you, and are perfect when you’re in a pinch. California-based Registered Dietitian Sarah Mirkin recommends frozen dinners by Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Kashi.
She also suggests to “pair them with a salad and fruit to make them a balanced and satisfying meal.”
9. Cook What You Love
Make a list of the dishes you enjoy most and find recipes for them. Use your cravings for each as a way to bridge the gap between your health and hatred for cooking.
Once you’ve cooked them a certain number of times, you eventually won’t have to look at the recipes anymore – they’ll be part of your every day routine as your common staple dishes.
“Motivation is a huge factor,” says New York-based Nutrition Expert and Registered Dietitian Tina Ruggiero. “Once someone begins to cook, it becomes an exciting (and almost addicting) activity.”
Tina could be onto something – this morning I made myself an egg (with no trace of shell!), and it was actually edible. I now fully intend on making one again tomorrow.
Ready to Get Started?
- “Google easiest recipe for…. You’ll find some great options that way!”
Dian Griesel, co-author of TurboCharged health and rapid fat loss book series
- “I love the Whole Foods app. As a raw foodie, I like raw meals for one or two people – they’re all quick and easy.”
Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D., Health & Nutrition Coach
- “I’m a big fan of food journaling. Livestrong’s MyPlate is one of the best sites I’ve found for recording online. They have an app now too!”
Amy Clover, Certified Personal Trainer
- “Honestly, the best app for keeping your diet on track is Instagram! Take pics of your food and appreciate the nutrients going into your body. That’s what I do. Food is not just fuel, it’s also art and beauty!”
Cassie Ho, California-based Fitness Instructor
Do you hate to cook? What tips have helped you stay healthy?
Try using cooking to relieve stress - here's how: Cut Stress by Chopping Food: Cooking for Stress ReliefFeatured photo credit: a pile of books and glasses symbolizing the concept of reading habit or studying via Shutterstock