Below is a guest post written for the Portage Health Foundation (PHF) website by Community Health Intern Allison Ronis. Ronis completed an internship at PHF during the summer of 2022.
As we as humans grow and age, we learn to realize how important nutrition really is. It may start as a nagging feeling as your parents make you sit at the dinner table until you try your broccoli. As you grow up, opportunities that demonstrate the power that nutrition has on your body are often presented. When given the time, education, tools, and resources to learn about the importance of nutrition, you may come to realize eating the broccoli wasn’t that bad. Nutrition is an immensely important aspect of overall health and one’s well-being. Nutrition is one of the most basic concepts of healthful cooking. Healthful cooking is considered understanding what you are putting into your body and fueling it for success. Starting healthy habits at a young age helps improve your chances of continuing these habits through adulthood to live a long and happy life. No matter your age, eating in a healthful manner presents huge potential for positive change.
What we put into our bodies truly impacts how we feel; not only physically but mentally as well. When your body and mind are fueled by positive foods you are put on a path of feeling good. That doesn’t mean you have to change everything you eat. Starting with some small switches in your daily life can be a small step towards change. One way to make a shift towards more healthful eating is to swap out processed snacks with a plant-based or minimally processed food.
Examples of minimally processed or plant-based foods include:
- Fresh fruit, unsweetened dried fruit, canned fruit sweetened with juice, fresh veggies, whole-grain crackers, cheese, hummus, nuts/nut butters, milk, yogurt with minimal added sugar
Examples of highly processed foods include:
- Sugary beverages, sweetened breakfast cereals, potato chips, cookies/cakes/muffins, candy
There can be a lot of misconceptions when it comes to healthful cooking, such as time, money and even effort needed to be successful. Cooking healthy and nutritious meals does not have to be some extravagant effort, although it is common for people to feel this way. Learning how to cook is one way to make healthful eating become more appealing. For those who may not be familiar or comfortable with cooking and learning foundational cooking techniques may help break down this barrier. A great resource to learn more about healthful cooking is Biblio Bistro, a locally produced virtual cooking show.
Another common barrier amongst all right now is the price of food. Food cost are on the rise so learning tips such as meal planning can be a very helpful tool. To check out a good website for quick and easy meal planning tips, check out The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning by Whisk. Another website called MyFoodFridge is super helpful when you have ingredients, but don’t know what to cook. You just plug in what you have in your kitchen and it gives you recipe ideas! Just because your meal plan used a “set” plan, does not mean you have to buy it at the store if it is expensive or out of your budget. The Well Kept Wallet provided seven great tips for grocery shopping in a March 2022 blog post. A few other helpful websites to check out are Cooking Matters and a YouTube channel called “Struggle Meals.”
Getting healthy options to everyone is a concept most, if not, all people can get behind. However, we live in a small semi-isolated county which can make accessing and purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables difficult. One great resource during the summer is our local farmers markets. Access to fresh produce grown by our own community members has positive impacts. For example, you would be getting more nutrients by eating the freshly produced fruits and veggies. Also, it is better for our environment and you’d be supporting our local economy. Our local farmers markets also have paired up with some food access programs. Here is where you can find a spreadsheet of food access programs available at local markets. Currently Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet Farmer’s Markets are offering these programs. You can learn more regarding Copper Country farmers markets on the Western U.P. Food Systems Collaborative Website.
Overall, learning foundational tips and tricks to healthful cooking can be beneficial. It is common for individuals to be frightened or intimidated by cooking but starting slowly and incorporating small pieces can lead to more. You don’t have to cut out the foods you love to feel good. Just remember that everything in moderation can be a vital piece to being in line with how your body feels. I encourage all to try to new recipes, engage in our local farmers markets and have fun cooking!