l don’t promote diets. See here for my reasons. However after becoming familiar with some of Micheal Pollan’s work (author of best selling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma), there is one diet that I do think will work:
“Eat anything you want, just cook it for yourself.”
Yes, this does create some problems, such as the burden of time, but it solves so many more. Research has shown that poor women who cook have better diets than rich women who don’t. As rates of home cooking decline, rates of obesity go up. If we only ate what we prepared yourself, would we still be consuming ‘sometimes’ foods such as cakes and pastries as often as we do? Would we be motivated to make french fries from scratch? My prediction is not likely.
Studies have found that the biggest predictor of a healthy diet isn’t necessarily the nutrients or calories consumed. It’s that your food is cooked by a human being and not a corporation. The food industry cooks differently than a human being. They use vast amounts of salt, sugar and fat – way more than you would use in your own cooking. These are incredibly attractive, addictive and cheap ingredients. In addition, all the preservatives and additives that are added to make industry food look like it was cooked more recently. There are serious long-term concerns about these additives.
Home cooking has been declining at a fast rate, since around the mid 60’s. Why? Media makes it flattering to be busy and sends the message that we don’t have time to cook. If you have time to cook – you’re a loser! Why cook when you can spend your time doing something else more interesting and meaningful? If we continue to believe we don’t have time to cook, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
How do we get more people to cook? Two key ways.
- Remind people of what a beautiful practice it is. Cooking can take the function of a creative outlet. Let’s encourage people to share images of their food creations, as they are something to be proud of. Let cooking be a therapeutic practice. A chance to disconnect from the hyper-connected world we live in and remove yourself from sitting in front of a screen. Let cooking be a chance for social time with friends and family.
- Make it seem not so impossible to create a healthy, good-tasting homemade meal. A common perception is that we don’t have the skills for cooking. Why? We live in a world where we see cooking on TV done by these heroic chefs who put together amazing dishes while the clock ticks behind them. This makes us view cooking as impossible and terrifying! Let’s start solving our diet-related health issues by instilling cooking self-efficacy in our population (mostly the younger generation). Bring home economics back as a mandatory course in schools. Create more community cooking classes where people can try out making various dishes and then bring it back home.
I challenge you to try this diet out for yourself.
To watch Michael Pollan’s short on cooking: