Picture this, you just arrived home from your honeymoon and begin to unpack and settle into your new loft apartment. You are excited to start this new season of life with your special someone and the idea of playing house is finally becoming a reality. With marriage comes a mixture of backgrounds and ideals. We won’t dive into the deep stuff today so please keep reading, you can save those deeper conversations for your date nights. Today I want to tackle something that, when set up properly, can shift the dynamics around the way you do one thing. And that one thing, my friends, is eating and all that goes into it. Well maybe not all that goes into it, we will hone in on the home, and how to set up your kitchen with the right tools and ingredients so you can feel a bit more secure and confident not only in what you’re eating but how you’re preparing it. Whether you are a cooking connoisseur or you feel more confident with ramen and instant rice, you are welcome here! So let’s jump in!
The pursuit of health can be daunting and confusing sometimes so I am here to simplify things and say that it’s okay not to buy “all the things” or turn your eating habits upside down overnight. And frankly for most people that isn’t realistic anyway. Let’s talk about a few ideas, their importance, and practical steps you can make today before you head to Target to get those random kitchen essentials and finish that registry.
You guys, this one is key, and remember to give yourselves grace here. Ideally, it’s great to begin adding in Grass-fed/Finished beef, pasture-raised eggs, and organic produce. But maybe you aren’t financially able to do all of those yet. The main point I want to make here is being able to decipher the marketing techniques and outsmart those big corporations that care more about money, than the health of the animal let alone you, the consumer. Natural doesn’t always equal humane or even organic. It’s easy to confuse and compare the two but, natural isn’t a term that is regulated in any way.
Why is it important?
Sourcing is very important because you’re not just what you eat but what that animal ate or vegetable absorbed from soil or pesticides.
-Shop at your local farmer’s market and get to know your farmers, how they raise their livestock, or what kind, if any, pesticides are used on their crops. This is a great way to be better connected to your food and have a greater appreciation for local farmers and their profession. This is also a great way to save some money. Produce sold here is usually in season which means it’s abundantly available thus driving those prices down. And you may find that the cattle they raise are handled in a way that is more humane and strict than an organic certification requires but they don’t have the resources to afford that certification annually.
-If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby you can still aim to source produce seasonally at your grocery store.
-Strive for sourcing organic fruits and vegetables that fall into the “Dirty Dozen” category. These are foods that studies have shown to have the most pesticide residues (NTA, 2020). And remember, organic or not, always be sure to wash your produce well before cooking or consuming.
-Opt for pasture-raised eggs when possible. Pasture-raised means that they have been raised on the pasture and in their natural habitat for their whole life and experience less stress resulting in more nutrient-dense eggs. This is a less expensive way to incorporate healthy fats and proteins into your meals and they’re not only for breakfast time. There are so many ways to cook and serve eggs.
Referring back to our connoisseur mention earlier, you do not have to be a professional chef to enjoy the art and creative arena of cooking and preparing. I’m going to be sharing a few simple swaps you can make today that are budget-friendly and easy to use in both the preparation and storage stages. According to the Nutritional Therapy Association (2020) there are three simple steps you can take to significantly reduce your exposure to toxins
- Buy one quality cast iron skillet and a good sharp knife
- Minimize danger of storing food in plastic by allowing it to fully cool before storing, and reheating those on a glass or ceramic plate instead of within that plastic container
- Ditch the foil and opt for unbleached parchment paper when lining baking sheets
My favorite brand for the cast iron is Lodge, you can find these at Target, so add that guy to your list! You can also find them on Amazon as well in a variety of sizes if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try different dishes. Here is a link to my go-to recommendation. One note for cast iron, you don’t want to use soap to clean it or even a super abrasive brush. If you use the right fats at the right temperatures, the food should glide right off. Say goodbye to Teflon and all it’s yucky chemicals.
Down the road if you would like to ditch plastic altogether I would suggest a simple Pyrex set to replace the plastic tupperware. It’s very durable and glass is much safer to store leftovers in, again just like the produce, be sure to wash before use with soap as they may have a chemical on the dishes to prevent moisture or mold in transit. These make great meal prep containers as well if time is a bit more valuable to you. Here is the set I would recommend. Pro-tip, they usually go on sale at many box stores during Black Friday!
Quality is conserved in the Prep
We are going to cover the basics of preparation in this section. This will give you a good starting point to grow from. Meats, vegetables and fruits are the most nutrient-dense food sources so let’s begin there.
Beef and chicken may be your go-to protein sources when just starting out. Beef can be prepared either raw or rare (NTA, 2020). It is also a bit tougher by nature so depending on the cut, low and slow may be the best route to ensure the most flavor and that the meat falls off the bone in tenderness. Are you drooling yet? I know, me too! Chicken can also be tougher as you may have experienced trying to cut through a raw chicken breast. Not the easiest thing, and don’t get me started on that tendon..This particular meat can be marinated prior to cooking to increase tenderness and flavor (NTA, 2020). You can slow roast or pan fry chicken. My personal favorite is pan frying it in some Avocado oil. The high smoke point of this oil (482 degrees F) makes it a more ideal choice as opposed to canola or vegetable oil as it doesn’t become carcinogenic at high temperatures.
Any non-organic vegetables should be peeled prior to use just as an added precaution against those pesticides. This is where you can use that sharp knife from those 3 steps mentioned earlier. Cut into even pieces so it cooks evenly and try to prep your vegetables right before the meal if possible, this ensures the highest freshness level as it’s not exposed to air for longer periods of time. If this isn’t plausible for you right now, several grocery stores have pre-cut, chopped or spiralized options that may be a better choice. Some vegetables, like carrots for example, are more nutrient-dense in their raw form as opposed to cooked. This makes for a great addition to a snack paired with some raw cheese.
Fruits can be consumed fresh or cooked (NTA, 2020). If you are on a tight budget, one of my favorite hacks is to buy organic frozen fruits like blueberries. They are typically cheaper and you can ensure the fruit was picked at its peak as opposed to being picked too early and ripening on the road. In the Fall, when apples are in season, you can saute them in some ghee and sprinkle with cinnamon for a delicious dessert.
Bringing things back around
In short, cooking doesn’t have to be confusing or daunting. The important thing to remember is to take baby steps, gradually swap for better tools and nutrient-dense ingredients. Take time to play in the kitchen with different methods. Use recipes as a guide but not necessarily a script. There is free-reign with cooking! Don’t be afraid to try new things, flavors and add a bit of spice to your routine. Invite your partner to hop on the journey with you. The kitchen is the perfect place to experiment and have those deep conversations I mentioned before! Now go, have fun, your Target registry is waiting for you!
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2020). Basics of Nutrition Student Guide [PDF document]. Retrieved from https://nutritionaltherapy.instructure.com/courses/143/files/2267?wrap=1
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2020). Culinary Wellness Pt. 1 Student Guide [PDF document]. Retrieved from https://nutritionaltherapy.instructure.com/courses/143/files/2239?wrap=1