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Why "Simply cook more" is not the universal solution for healthy eating

Healthy eating is an endlessly complex topic that often breaks down into sounds – a brief instruction that provides a simple solution to a variety of problems. For example: Just cook more. Nowadays, home cooking is considered to be the holy grail of healthy nutrition and the way we should fulfill every nutritional ideal – whether that's what we should eat less of (salt, sugar, calories, processed foods)) or what more should eat (vegetables, fiber, whole foods, vitamins and minerals).

Food reformers and celebrity chefs are vociferously spreading this as the gospel, and it is widely used in public health services and food media. Heck, I've written my fair share of very simple recipes for the week to encourage apathetic cooks, and it's my fault that time-saving kitchen appliances like slow cookers are simple solutions for cooking on a tight schedule ,

But really it is not that easy. In this demand for more home cooking, much is implied and expected. In fact, the message is, "cook more from scratch, with mostly unprocessed foods such as products, meat, dairy, whole grains, nuts and seeds." Packaged mac and cheese and white bread and Bologna sandwiches do not cut. And for many people this is a big challenge.

To put it bluntly, nutritious home cooking is not a bad thing – experts generally agree that eating mostly unprocessed foods can lead to better health outcomes, and it's easier to control what you eat when you're eating Cook home. However, it does not help to present it as a simple solution or even as a decision that anyone can make. It could actually be harmful.

The message of cooking more from scratch comes from a place of socio-economic privilege. "People who make such recommendations often underestimate and overlook the privilege they have," says Melissa Carmona, M.S., a clinical mental health consultant who works primarily with migrant communities versus SELF. "When my clients visit doctors or other healthcare professionals, they often face the following problems:" You should cook more, eat better, change your lifestyle to improve your health. "That's what I heard when I moved to the United States as a teenager." The reality, however, was not easy: she could not afford the recommended foods, and she found that many of the cultural foods she loved was not included in the American picture of healthy eating and home cooking 19659008] I have been writing about food for seven years, and I feel well when I say that the virtues of healthy home cooking are an integral part of Repertoires of many white Instagram influencers are relatively good and with the remainder of their feed indication in place, creating an unrealistic and culturally close expectation of what acceptable healthy home-cooked food looks like, and ultimately, home cooking becomes a status symbol, reports Tamara Melton, MS, RD, Registered nutritionist and co-founder of Diversify Dietetics, a nonprofit organization n, which is committed to increasing ethnic and ethnic diversity in the nutrition profession.

"People are I'm already confused about what healthy eating is, and many now think it's about recreating all the beautiful, trendy food they see on Instagram. "Much of this food is whitewashed, says Melton. It's also expensive and is often made by food professionals and influencers who are paid to cook and take pictures.

Of course, not everyone feels the pressure to eat like they do on Instagram. But a less well-known homemade food is not as accessible, as mass media suspect.

Cooking from scratch is in fact not affordable for everyone or more affordable than they already are. One of the selling points for healthy home cooking is based on a huge paradox: the idea of ​​cooking at home is the budget-friendly choice. This is for someone who could start cooking as an alternative to eating, but not for someone who is already eating most of their meals at home. A 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the lowest-income households spend a larger percentage of their food budget – about two-thirds – on home-cooked food (including non-prepared food purchased) were) in the grocery business) as the most income-earning households – spend only about half.

But what these low-income households are cooking may not do justice to the ideal of a healthy meal prepared from the ground up. In the book Pressure cooker: Why home cooking does not solve our problems and what we can do about it Authors write Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton and Sinikka Elliott. To explain the differentiated challenges and obstacles to healthy home cooking support on interviews and long-term observational studies with multiple mothers, most of whom are poor or working-class.

"It's commonplace If you just make a little more effort or organize something better, you can be healthy and prepare a good meal for your kids," says Brenton to SELF. Their research, however, proves this wrong. "It does not matter if you know the right way to eat or to cook – it's about having the money." Brenton and her co-authors describe a huge gap between families who can afford fresh, seasonal produce, nutritious food and families … looking for the cheapest deals – 10 for $ 10 – to feed everyone on the smallest possible budget.

It's also almost impossible to prioritize healthy food and cooking when you're worried about having enough to eat. According to a USDA 2016 report one in eight Americans is food-insecure, meaning that they have no access to "enough food for an active, healthy life". The USDA has attempted to quantify food insecurity by mapping "food deserts" in low-income areas where at least a third of its residents live more than a mile from a grocery store. But many experts see it as a further simplification of a very complicated problem. "Just having a grocery store in your area does not mean you have a way to get there, get the food there or even eat it," said Kathryn De Master, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Agriculture, Society and Environment at the University of California, Berkeley, says SELF.

Food aid programs such as SNAP (food stamps) are designed to help low-income people buy food I could not afford it, but these benefits can only go so far. Processed foods are generally cheaper than unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meat. Even with the benefits of SNAP, cooking with mostly unprocessed foods requires "a lot of planning and maneuvering," says De Master, and in some areas where fresh food is more expensive, it's often not possible at all.

Healthy Cooking Eating also takes time, a luxury that many do not have. A simple tin dinner with chicken and potatoes takes about an hour from start to finish. Many people, especially shift workers or working parents, probably do not have much time to wait. Brenton and her co-authors think that time is a problem for many. "Even middle-class mothers who have the money to cook healthy meals do not necessarily have the time," she says.

It is true that people spend less time cooking than before. A 2013 study in the Nutrition Journal found that women spent an average of nearly two hours a day in the kitchen in 1965, while a 2018 study stood in the same journal reports that this number had dropped to about one hour a day by 2016. However, it is not fair to assume that this is always a choice. "Much has to do with work schedules," says Brenton. And even time-saving hacks are not suitable for everyone. "If you listen to healthy diet advice on a full schedule, you hear things about preparing meals on the weekends," she says. "But what if you work at the weekend?" What if you take care of small children and sick parents? What if you prefer to cook something other than cooking? Suppose everyone can take time to cook, if he decides that this is not fair.

There is no easy solution to these problems, but we must stop talking about healthy eating as this is the responsibility of the individual. "Just as we talk about home cooking, we convince people that it's their responsibility to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their families," says Brenton. "This affects the true causes of ill health, such as massive economic inequality, racism, long hours and stress." These problems will not be resolved soon, but there are ways to make healthy food more accessible in the meantime. Brenton and her co-authors suggest large-scale solutions, such as government subsidies for healthier school meals, paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick leave, and affordable childcare that would give people more time to prioritize food.

At the community level, things like cooking healthy foods in large quantities in commercial kitchens and selling at different scales can be helpful. Melton stresses the importance of community-based solutions actually addressing the individual needs of each community. "It's important to encourage people to eat in ways that are pleasant and culturally relevant to them, with food they can access," says Melton. "In low-income communities, it's very important to teach cooking skills based on the ingredients and equipment available," says Melton. "Pay attention to what is offered at local grocery stores and food banks and teach people to cook with these things."

Ultimately, experts agree that it's not very helpful to just get everyone to cook healthy foods to be healthier. Instead of promoting a high ideal of home cooking, we must first and foremost find ways to make more healthy people available to more people.

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