March 18, 2020

The Benefits of Cooking More Often

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

March is Dietitians of Canada’s National Nutrition Month , and I want to take a moment to say thank you to all of the dietitians across Canada who work with Burnbrae Farms. Together we help improve the lives and the health of Canadians, and I’m so grateful for this strong partnership.

This year, the theme of Nutrition Month is More Than Food , and it reminds us that what we eat is important, but how we eat is just as vital too. Healthy eating is about more than food – it's also about family, memories and emotions. It’s about planning meals and cooking with family and friends, then sitting down to share a meal together. And it’s about ensuring that everyone has equal access to healthy, enjoyable food at all times.

Think back to your earliest food memories. Likely you ate something that was prepared by a family member – maybe a parent or grandparent. So many of my colleagues who work in the food industry will say that their career choice was inspired by their early memories of cooking with their grandmother or uncle or mom.

Growing up on the farm, I remember cooking with my mother who was known to be “the best cook on the Lyn Road”.  She was tasked and certainly rose to the occasion to prepare meals for me, our father and my four siblings.  She started every morning with a perfectly poached Burnbrae Farms egg on toast served with ‘tomato butter’, our Homestyle Ketchup.  And she finished every day with a home cooked meal with all the family there.  Family meals with 7 people were chaotic but fun.  We often pitched in on meal prep and were expected to do the dishes!  My mother was also an avid baker, and I remember picking raspberries from our patch in her garden.  On the weekend, there were often 4 types of pie, and when in season, one made from the freshly picked raspberries.  This formed the foundation of my relationship with food and cooking with my children.

When my kids were young, they would enjoy making some family-favourite recipes with me. It has always been important for me that my kids can cook – it’s a basic life lesson that will serve them well, no matter what path they follow. You can be sure that my kids know how to fry up eggs and my son is now an avid baker – chocolate chip cookies are his favourite, but he has also learned to make pie and pumpkin pie is on the menu at our family holiday celebrations! My mother would be so proud!  Just as important as what they eat is learning about where it came from, how to buy it and how to prepare it. It’s ALL part of building a healthy relationship with food.

According to Canada’s Food Guide, cooking more often can actually develop healthier eating habits for people of all ages! That’s because you have more control over the ingredients that are in your meals, and likely use less fat, salt and sugar than restaurants use. People who cook more often tend to rely less on ultra-processed foods, which is important for overall health. Studies link excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes . So when you cook at home with more vegetables, high quality proteins and whole grains, you do your health a favour. Bonus: You save money too!

There are a few stumbling blocks that get in the way to cooking at home more often. Most people cite lack of time or lack of skill as the main reasons why they rely on take-out or packaged foods most nights. Time crunch is a tough one, because cooking requires several pre-planned steps. Before you can start cooking, you need to have ingredients in your fridge and pantry, and an idea of what you plan to make!

Some people find it helps to plan ahead. When you have a free 30-minute window, sit down and decide the meals you will make for the upcoming week, and make a grocery list to match. While it may seem daunting to put aside 30 minutes for this task, it actually helps save time in the long run: no more last-minute trips to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner.

You can also use this time to plan those handy make-once-eat-twice type of meals, when you make enough food in one cooking session to last for several days. For example, you can use leftover pasta to make a cold pasta salad or something a little different like a frittata ; yesterday’s vegetables are also great in omelettes ; and leftover turkey or chicken is perfect in wraps or sandwiches . Some people like to make large batches of pasta dishes , stew, chili, casseroles and soups, and then freeze the leftovers for future meals. Defrosting dinner is a great time saver!

I always have canned fish (tuna/salmon) and beans, dry pasta and frozen vegetables in my kitchen, because they are perfect for last minute meals. And since eggs top the list of the easiest and quickest meals that people love to prepare, I always have eggs on hand for quick frittatas , wraps, omelettes and egg salad sandwiches and don’t forget smoothies .

See? It’s important to think about HOW your meals will come together for the week, before you even decide WHAT you will be eating. Yep, nutrition is about more than food! Looking for some inspiration for dinner this week? Check out our recipes , or try the recipes from Nutrition Month 2020.

Margaret Hudson

President, Burnbrae Farms