Cooking at Home – Mindfully!

Reader Contribution by Dr. Arya Krishna
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Mindfulness offers an inside-out approach: Usually we eat based on other people, the time of the day, the weather, and other factors. Most of us don’t eat when we feel hungry or maybe we don’t even let our body feel what hunger is. For example, you might have had your breakfast at 10am and your friend called out for having lunch. Before the food digests, you will go for a buffet lunch.

In order to cultivate mindfulness, you need to practice the following:

  • Cultivate a healthy relationship with food
  • Choose healthy foods, mindfully
  • Feel good in your body, mind, and spirit

Above all these factors: Cook at home!

Image by Arya Krishna

How to Cook Mindfully?

Once you have decided to cook at home, remember to do that with all your heart. Cooking at home is the best way to get food in its purest, freshest form. Home cooked food can make you healthier, happier and more connected.

  • Choose seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. They will stack your plate with essential nutrients and bold flavors.
  • Avoid foods that contain preservatives and artificial sweeteners, coloring, and flavorings. They just fill your body with calories and chemicals
  • Do you know what USDA’s My Plate suggest? Fill your plate half with veggies, 1/4 with grains, and another 1/4 with ,eatm
  • Try to choose organic foods and, thus, limit the amount of pesticides in the body. Wash the vegetables and fruits with a mixture of baking soda+ lemon juice + warm water
  • Choose snacks mindfully. Snack and treat is different. For snacking include nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole fruits, hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
  • The wonderful part about mindful eating is that it can benefit anyone and everyone. One of the main reasons that people turn towards pursuing a healthier lifestyle is because they want to feel better inside out. In order to make that special connection with food, it is better to cook yourself and enjoy healthy foods.
  • Include spices in cooking. The typical attraction towards food is generated by olfaction, rather than gustation. The spices contribute much towards the olfactory aspect of food, especially in the Indian context. Besides rendering the food tasty, these aid in digestion due to the properties such as Dipana (carminative), Rochana (appetizers) and Hrdya (beneficial to heart).

These correspond to substances like coriander, garlic, ginger, pepper, curry leaf, onion, chilies, lemon, cumin, cinnamon, asafetida, fenugreek, mustard etc. used in modern cooking.

  • Cooking doesn’t need to be a solo affair. Invite your partner, kids, or friends into the kitchen to cut down on the time and energy required to make a meal and to make it fun. Cooking together solidifies your relationship at home.

Creating a Perfect Home-Cooked Meal

Rice (Matta variety)

Matta rice or Kerala red rice (Rosematta rice) is one of the healthiest kind of rice. Other than its unique taste, the red pericarp of this rice variety has a high content of nutrients. It is a great source of Magnesium which is a vital component of staying healthy. It meets your daily fiber requirement and keeps your digestive system run smoothly. The high fiber content also enhances its anti-diabetic properties, by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates.

Here for a healthy home-cooked meal I have chosen Matta rice (1/4plate).

Cooking matta rice in a saucepan will take nearly 45 minutes to 1 hour. The rice to water ratio is 1:5. Once the rice is cooked, excess water is drained using a colander. I have used a pressure cooker to cook the rice. For 1 cup of rice add at least 4 cups of water. Cook for 3-4 whistles and when pressure goes off, drain on a colander.

You can replace Matta rice with your favorite whole grain. Make sure you use 1/4plate of whole grain.

Snake Gourd Stir Fry with Coconut

Snake gourd possesses meaningful amounts of carbohydrates, protein and soluble fiber. It has Vitamins A, B and C and high content of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and iodine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • Snake gourd – Cut and chopped into small pieces (Try to get locally grown organic snake gourd)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Salt – to taste

Method of preparation:

Wash and chop off the top and bottom of snake gourd and cut it into small pieces. Heat oil in a small pan and when hot splutter mustard seeds. Add chopped snake gourd, Carrots, turmeric powder, and mix well. Add 1/2 cup water.  Let it cook without lid on low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender. Now, in a blender add scraped coconut, cumin seeds and chili powder. Crush it and add with cooked vegetables. Add salt to taste. Serve warm with rice.

Instead of snake gourd you can use French beans, beets, cabbage, or your choice of vegetable. Make sure you add the right amount of water to cook the vegetable.

Ladies Finger (Okra) Stir Fry

According to the University of Illinois Extension, a half-cup serving of sliced, cooked okra without any additions has 25 calories, 2 g dietary fiber, about 6 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g protein and healthy amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Here is a quick and simple recipe of goodness to fill your plate.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c washed and cut okra
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder

Method of preparation

In a sauce pan, add one tsp. coconut oil. When hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seed splutters add the cut okra. Sauté okra well and cover and cook in medium flame for 2-3 minutes. Now add the required amount of salt and pepper powder. Cook for 5 more minutes without lid. Serve with warm rice.

Fish Gravy

Here I have used tuna fish (fresh and organic) due to its impressive nutritional benefits. Tuna fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins. Proteins and minerals. Of course, it is delicious as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 c tuna fish, cleaned and chopped to small pieces
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tomato, sliced

Method of preparation

Heat oil in a sauce pan. When oil is hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and fenugreek. When mustard seeds splutter add in the shallots. Sauté well. When the color turns light brown to golden add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, and sliced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. When tomato is fully mashed and cooked add chili powder and mix well. Now, add ½ cup of warm water and tuna fish. Add tamarind paste and cook until tuna fish is well cooked. Serve warm with rice.

Variations: This is a spicy dish. You can alter the quantity of chili powder or even add 1/4  cup of coconut milk in the end to reduce spiciness. If you are vegan replace tuna fish with cooked black eyes peas and follow all other steps.

The Importance of Home-Cooked Food

Studies have found that eating out led to at least a 50 percent increase in calories consumed, sodium and total fat intake. This can lead to overweight and other health problems. Research has shown that children who eat home-cooked meals more frequently were less likely to be overweight. Studies found family meals tend to contain more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, soda and trans-fat. 1

People who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis tend to be happier and healthier and consume less sugar and processed foods, which can result in higher energy levels and better mental health.2

Cooking is one of the most important aspects of eating healthy. Next weekend when you plan for a eat out, make it a grocery shopping and have healthy home cooked meal.


References

  1. Medical Daily – Health Benefits of home cooked meals
  2. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?
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