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So you’ve committed to healthy eating, and you know cooking at home can help you lose weight — research has shown that people who cook at home tend to eat a higher-quality diet. “Cooking allows you to choose the quality of ingredients and the variety of foods, giving you more control over what ends up in your body,” says culinary nutritionist Carly Wertheim, MS.
One problem: You hate being in the kitchen. You’re busy enough as it is, so the thought of spending any amount of time cooking a mediocre casserole — only to be left with a pile of dirty dishes afterward — sounds like a total drag.
But there are a few ways you can make the whole cooking process easier and more enjoyable. (Really!) Here are some tried-and-true tips for finding your inner chef.
1. Get the Right Tools
If you only invest in one kitchen tool, Wertheim suggests you start with a sharp knife. After all, nothing can make meal prep more tedious than chopping with a dull knife. “Wielding a chef’s knife may seem intimidating at first, but a properly sharpened cutting utensil will make food prep so much easier and efficient,” Wertheim says.
2. Taste-Test While You Cook
Wertheim recommends tasting your food at each step of the recipe to see how everything is coming along. Instead of worrying about whether your lasagna is going to turn out okay, or being disappointed by an overly salty sauce, you’ll be able to adjust your seasoning gradually until it’s perfect.
3. Get to Know Your Ingredients
One easy way to get more excited about cooking is to shop at farmers markets, where you can support the local economy while shopping for freshly picked, seasonal produce — and getting tips from the growers. “You’ll be so inspired by all the colors and variety,” Wertheim says. “Talk to the farmers and ask them for their favorite ways to prepare each vegetable.”
4. Make It a Team Effort
Make the process more fun by inviting a friend over or planning a romantic dinner at home for your next date night. “Having a partner in the kitchen may make it more enjoyable, and the teamwork will help speed up the process,” Wertheim says.
5. Take a Class
Sometimes we think we don’t enjoy doing something, when in reality, we’re just uncomfortable with not being the best at it. If you hate cooking because you feel like your meals turn out lackluster, consider enrolling in a cooking class, or checking out some cookbooks at the library. After you master a tasty meal or two, you may find you enjoy cooking more.
6. Connect With Your Cultural Roots
By learning to cook traditional dishes from your cultural background, you can keep those traditions alive and share them with loved ones. “Food traditions are rich cultural lineages that we honor and keep alive when we cook,” says Wertheim. “A meal can connect us to the places and people from which it originated, ground us in family heritage, and celebrate the diversity of human experience.”
7. Track Your Savings
If you’re not motivated by the idea of creating delicious, nutritious meals, consider this: Researchers found that people who frequently cooked at home spent an average of $57 less per month on food than people who rarely cooked at home, and that adds up to $684 per year. Keep track of your grocery budget and your dining-out budget, and see how much you’re saving by cooking at home. Then make a list of rewards you can buy with the money you’ve saved by cooking at home — it’ll make cooking that steak dinner a whole lot sweeter!