Do you hate to cook? Does the idea of another recipe fail make you want to bang your head against a wall? Are you confused about where to start with healthy eating when you can’t even cook a basic vegetable?
If so, relax! I want to assure you now that it is 1000% possible for you to consistently eat healthy and reach your goal weight even if you can’t cook.
In my health coaching practice, I recently worked with a woman who admittedly had no cooking skills. Her husband did most of the cooking for the household. When they separated, she was feeling lost about how to eat healthy and lose weight.
Through our time working together she was able to shift her mindset about food, create better eating habits and transition to consuming mostly whole foods . With these shifts alone (no need for exercising, counting calories, or cutting carbohydrates) she finally lost the last 10 pounds she had been struggling with for years.
I tell you this story just so you can know that eating a consistent, healthy, whole foods based diet and working on your eating habits and mindset is truly all you need to do to reach your goal weight.
And the best news ever? You don’t need to be a Master Chef to do any of those three things!
Today I’m going to share my top 5 tips for consistently eating healthy (even if you can’t cook). Some of these tips will likely surprise you while others might leave you thinking “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?”.
If you put these tips into practice, I can almost guarantee you will be start looking and feeling better quick. And you won’t even need to up your cooking skills!
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in…
Tip #1 – Make your food boring and your life exciting.
The biggest obstacle to eating healthy isn’t that we don’t know what we should eat or how to cook it. Instead, one of the most common problems is that we think eating healthy food is boring.
You’ll know if this is you if you’re always scanning Instagram or Pinterest for another exciting, healthy recipe…
Your problem isn’t that you “can’t cook” or that learning to make new recipes is “too hard”. The real problem is your underlying belief that your food should bring the excitement to your life.
Think about it — If you were suddenly diagnosed with a rare medical condition and could never eat sugar or flour again, would you still love your life? Would you find excitement and joy from other things like relationships, religion, career, or hobbies?
This isn’t to say that I think you need to never eat sugar and flour again. The point is, you should live a full, joyful, and fulfilling life without needing food to bring the excitement.
I love what Katrina Ubell said in an episode of her Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast that you should “keep your food boring and your life exciting.”
If you’re using “I can’t cook” as a justification for why you’ve been putting off eating healthy, I want you to ask yourself…
Do I believe that food needs to bring me excitement or entertainment?
Is it possible that I could figure out how to cook healthy food, even if it’s boring?
What do I need to change about my life to make it more exciting, regardless of what I eat?
Tip #2 – Spend 5 minutes a day planning the next 24 hours.
One of the most effective ways to eat healthy is to plan and track what you eat. Research shows that those who consistently track their food intake lose more weight than those who don’t. Not only do they lose more weight, but they’re able maintain their weight loss long-term.
Most of us already know that food planning and tracking works if you do it consistently. But, the question remains, how do you actually make that happen?
I teach my own method for tracking that I like to call “The Daily Plan & Review Method”. It doesn’t involve counting calories, weighing food, or any other (super inconvenient) tactics you may have tried in the past.
Instead, you simply make a plan each day for everything you’ll eat for the next 24 hours. Making this daily plan takes less than 5 minutes a day. You commit to the plan and do your best to stick with it no matter what.
Then, before you make the next day’s plan, you spend another 2-3 minutes reviewing how well you did. If you ate anything off plan, you write that down. Then you ask yourself, “What happened that prompted me to eat off plan?” and “What can I do better next time?”. It’s that simple.
When I built this into my morning routine, it became so much easier to consistently eat healthy.
Creating this new habit takes some effort initially, but it will pay off massively in the long-run by helping you to consistently eat healthier, whether you’re good at cooking or not.
Tip #3 – Eating out? Create your food protocol NOW.
If you go out to eat often because you can’t cook, that’s ok! But it’s also not an excuse to not eat healthy. Create your personal “protocol” for dining out and use that to stay consistent with your healthy diet.
Create a list of all your favorite restaurants or types of restaurants (Mexican, Chinese, Pizza, Burgers, etc.). Then, go through each item on that list and write down a healthy order you can get there.
It could be fajitas without the tortillas, grilled teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables, cauliflower crust pizza with veggies, or a lettuce-wrapped burger…
Over time your list might expand as you discover new healthy restaurants or menu items that you love. The important thing is that you keep the list somewhere convenient (preferably on your phone) where you can always reference it.
Whenever you feel like eating out, this list will serve as your own personal menu. Then, whichever restaurant you choose, you’ll always have your order pre-determined.
This is another example of how you can make decisions about your food in advance. Doing so cuts out all the “mental drama” that normally goes on our minds when we debate with ourselves about what to order.
For more tips on how to eat healthy when eating out, check out my blog post Healthy Eating At Restaurants: A Guide to Eating Out Guilt-Free.
Tip #4 – Find sauces & condiments that you love.
If you’re still feeling stuck about where to start with healthy cooking, these next two tips are everything you need.
First, find some sauces and condiments that you love and keep those on hand in your kitchen at all times! A good condiment can make even the most bland chicken and broccoli taste delicious.
The most important things to pay attention to is eating real (not highly processed) foods a majority of the time and not overeating them. If you’re doing that, you’re on the right track! Use any sauces or dressings that help make it easier. You might already have your favorites and not be looking to change those, which is totally fine.
However, if you’re looking for some healthier options, here are a few ingredients to avoid whenever possible:
- Added sugar
- Artificial sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Low-fat dressings
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Artificial food coloring and dyes
- Corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, and rice bran oils
Because of the potentially harmful health impacts of these ingredients, there are lots of brands committed to using only healthy ingredients. Some of my favorite healthy options are linked here:
- Buffalo Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Greek Dressing
- Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette
- Spicy Ketchup
- Alfredo Sauce
- Sirrano Hot Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Marinara Sauce
Any of these products will make your food tastes good, even if you only have basic cooking skills. Try new products out until you find your own go-to’s. Once you have a fridge stocked with sauces and condiments you love, you’ll be able whip up meals with very little effort.
Tip #5 – Make frozen, canned, and pre-cooked foods your new BFF.
Whether you can’t cook, don’t have the time, or just don’t care to try, you can still eat healthy at home with little to no cooking. Just make frozen, canned and pre-cooked foods your new BFF!
There’s no rule that says frozen food is less nutritious. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are often MORE nutrient dense than the fresh produce because it is frozen at “peak ripeness”. Fresh produce continues to ripen after it is picked, packaged, and shipped to the grocery store, which can cause it to lose some of the nutrients as it ages.
Stock your freezer with frozen burger patties, chicken strips, and sausage links. Load up on frozen veggies that can be microwaved or heated on the stovetop.
You can buy pre-cooked chicken, sausage or sliced deli meat to keep in your refrigerator. Buy bagged salads and throw some chicken or sliced turkey and salad dressing on top.
Frozen fruits and veggies can be thrown into a blender with some protein powder, milk and ice to make smoothies.
Stock your pantry with microwaveable packets of rice, cans of beans, and bags of nuts and seeds.
As long as you plan ahead, eating healthy doesn’t have to take any more skill in the kitchen than knowing how to heat up your stove or use your microwave.
If you find yourself thinking that eating from your freezer sounds boring…I would like you remind you once again that food is not meant to be your excitement in life. Food is for fuel. Remember, it’s good to keep your food be boring and your life be exciting 😉
One Last Note…
If you’ve been struggling with consistently eating healthy and using “I can’t cook” as your justification, I hope you now feel empowered to make a change.
Eating a whole foods based diet, and working on your habits and mindset are really all that you need to do to reach your goal weight and maintain it for life.
All the supplements, workout gear, and fad diets being sold to you everywhere else are just distractions from that.
Stay focused on the most important things and don’t let silly excuses like “I can’t cook” get in the way of the life and health you want.
For every reason that your brain comes up with about why you can’t, there is always a solution.
Instead of asking yourself, “Why can’t I?” ask yourself, “How can I?”
October 27, 2021