There’s something magical about going into a restaurant and paying good money for a meal that, quite frankly, sucks. (That’s a sentence you don’t expect to read … or write!) But it’s true.
Years ago, when my daughter declared herself vegetarian at the age of three, I didn’t understand the poor choices she faced when we went out to eat at restaurants I considered good.
I’d order her salads, or see if they could make it without meat. They’d think for a moment, nod, and deliver subpar food.
My turning point came when I moved to vegetarianism. The deeper I moved into healthy eating, the more aware I became of just how bad restaurant food is.
Need proof? Give this video by Michael Pollan your attention for two minutes. It effectively describes the differences between the way individuals and corporations cook.
While I believe everyone can benefit by cooking more at home, it’s imperative for plant-based eaters for a variety of reasons:
- It gives you more nutritious meals
- It helps you understand what you’re eating and how it impacts your body
- It develops new skills
- It gets you up close and personal with your food
Answering why you should cook sounds easy enough. But I still get questions all the time on how you develop cooking as a daily habit. You’ve got your own internal stories:
- I hate cooking
- I’m not a good cook
- It intimidates me
- I don’t like my cooking
- It takes too much time
- I just can’t do it at the end of a busy day
Did I hit one of your stories?
Then I’ve got solutions for you.
Developing a daily cooking habit is like any other task or project you take on. The more you do it, the better you get at it. You just have to do it to fall in love with it.
So if you’ve got your own stories, read on. I’ve got some strategies for you to fall in love with your kitchen once again!
Figure out your story
Whether you shake your head yes or no reading the above points, you probably have internal stories that help prevent you from cooking regularly.
A big one for me was always centered around time. By the time I got home from a hectic day, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time in the kitchen. More times than not, I grabbed the phone and ordered a pizza. Or loaded everyone into the car to head out to one of our favorite restaurants.
The more committed I became to my plant-based diet, the more time I spent analyzing where the real problem was.
Time is a function of preparedness. When I opened the cupboards and tried to pull a meal together, I found I was missing ingredients, or simply had no idea what recipe to follow.
It wasn’t time as much as being organized for cooking a meal. Change that one factor, and it changed everything.
Every day you’ll need to decide how you feed your story. Do you want to stick with what you’ve always told yourself? Or do you choose to add a new chapter?
Address the issue
When I finally went vegetarian, it became apparent that most chain restaurants fail at providing vegetarian meals. They’ll have one token entree to please you, and that’s usually loaded with cheese.
It also has very little flavor.
After one too many meals out, I started thinking about the money we were wasting. There had to be a better way! So I bought my very first vegetarian cookbook. I found a recipe and cooked. It wasn’t so bad!
Of course, that meal turned into several per week. Til eventually, eating out became the exception instead of the rule.
I get that it sounds easy on paper. In reality, it’s not quite that easy. But you do have to address the issue.
For me, timing was all about being unprepared. I’d stand in my kitchen at 5 o’clock, with no strategy in mind. That’s the wrong time to be thinking about meal planning.
So I took a different approach. I started by planning my meal first thing in the morning. If I needed a few items, I had plenty of time to stop. That’s morphed into planning a week at a time. I’ll sit down on Sundays and plan a week in advance. That way, I can shop for the entire week in one shot.
It works for me. You have to work out what works for you.
New habits are easy to release back into the universe if you don’t create structure around them. If you’re rarely in the kitchen, don’t make a plan to cook every single meal.
Instead, start with one day a week. I love Sunday meals because it’s the one day I’m usually home. It’s my “get stuff done around the house” day. So it’s also the day I’m most likely to throw a big pot of vegan chili on the stove, or whip up one of my lasagnas.
Then when one day is easy, move to two. Eventually, you’ll be doing it more for the love of cooking.
Leftovers are your friends
Okay, I mentioned my vegan chili above because I make it all the time. I love it! And I don’t just make a little; I make a ton of it. Why? Because it makes the best leftovers, and leftovers are scrumptious for easy weekday lunches.
I hate the “100 best recipes” posts you can find online. They’re confusing and make you feel like you need variety every single day of the month. Not true!
Start with a few recipes you love. Make them frequently – once a week. That’s okay. And if you make a lot of it, you’ll have several meals.
Keep these as your mainstay items and cook them regularly. It gives you options.
I’ve found I’m all in on new habits. I want to go as fast as I can. The trouble is, if you go too quickly, you burn out, and quit the practice altogether. I learned this long ago, and take a different approach to habits today.
Start with one meal a week. Then move to two. Do it for a few weeks before you proceed to three. On and on, celebrating your wins along the way.
And when you miss a day? Don’t feel like failing. Instead, get right back at it. It’s okay!
Start with food you enjoy
What’s your favorite food right now? The food you think you’ll miss when you move to plant-based eating?
It’s time to find a plant-based recipe you fall in love with to replace it.
I LOVE Pad Thai. Love it! But I could never get my plant-based recipes to come close to my favorite restaurant.
I kept searching, looking for one I liked. Then, voila, I found it. I make it regularly now.
Whatever your favorite food is, go searching for a plant-based replacement. Don’t worry if it takes you a while to find it, that can be part of the fun.
And when you find it – you’ll anticipate being able to whip it up in your kitchen repeatedly!
Share it with others
Do I hear grumbling? One of the toughest parts of switching to plant-based is preparing foods for others who aren’t. They grumble. They moan and complain … Until they try it.
By taste alone, I’ve converted so many people to plant-based meals, at least part-time.
See, people have this impression of plant-based as boring salad with zero taste. It simply isn’t true.
Here’s what you do. Find a favorite – one you fall in love with. Make that your go-to meal. Then share it with people.
I have a neighbor who wanted a hearty winter soup that made her feel like she was back in her hometown. I told her about my baked potato soup. She couldn’t wait to try it. It’s filled with potatoes, almonds, nutritional yeast, tempeh bacon – yes, it’s actually pretty good for you. And the taste’s incredible! She made a batch, and can’t stop raving about it. She’s brought it to several potlucks, and people can’t believe it’s vegan. No butter, cheese, fatty bacon, milk, or sour cream in this recipe.
When you produce a great recipe, it boosts your confidence. When you bring it along to a potluck and share it – and people LOVE it – you start falling in LOVE with your kitchen. It’s amazing what you can do.
Enjoy the process
Like any habit, cooking takes time.
I remember a time when we declared our birthdays as a night we could pick any restaurant to visit for dinner. These days, we enjoy birthday dinners at home. Because we absolutely love what we cook. It’s good, it’s better for us … what’s not to love?
But this has been a process. I didn’t start out as a good cook. Yes, I consider myself to be a good cook. I enjoy it.
And that’s really the key. See, we each have 24 hours a day. What you choose to do with those 24 hours is up to you.
Spending time in a car getting to a restaurant, waiting for reservations, and getting a meal that’s just okay – that isn’t something I’m interested in anymore. With the patterns I have down now, I make it a part of my nightly process. And with the family joining me in the kitchen, we turn it into a family event. We laugh, joke, and inspire each other.
Head back up and watch the video again. Restaurant or processed food can’t nurture your health. It’s not what they’re designed to do.
Right now, I’ve become very aware of the food I bring into my home. I select only the best ingredients. And it shows up in every way possible.
My skin is clear. I sleep better. I feel healthy inside and out. I feel full when I eat great food – no empty calories here.
This takes time. Your body has to get used to the new way you eat. But once it does – you’ll never go another way.
I started this site specifically to share all of the knowledge I’ve gained over the last three decades.
I’m a completely different person than I was back then. On the night my dad died at the age of fifty-four, I had no idea I’d be who I am today. That I would be this aware of food, this in control over my health, and leading a Gorgeous Wellthy Life!
I promise you’ll be excited to share when you get there, too.
So give it a shot
The benefits are worth it. Why not start moving to a plant-based lifestyle today!
Vegan Baked Potato Soup
- 1 cup raw whole almonds, soaked, peeled
- 3 cups veggie broth
- 1 pound russet or red potato
- ? cup nutritional yeast
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chives, chopped
- Tempeh bacon, chopped
- Soak raw almonds in boiling hot water for an hour.
- For the roasted potatoes, heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss diced potatoes in olive oil and nutritional yeast. Lay flat on a baking sheet and add salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes or until tender and crispy.
- While potatoes are roasting, peel potatoes and chop into small wedges. Add to boiling hot water and cook until tender. Drain away water.
- Drain and rinse the almonds. Remove any additional skins – they should easily pop out of the skin by squeezing them between your thumb and forefinger.
- Place almonds, boiled potato, veggie broth, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper in a high-powered blender, or use an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. You may need more or less veggie broth, depending on your desire. Season to taste.
- Divide soup into serving bowls. Top with roasted potatoes, chives, and tempeh bacon. Enjoy!