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What Does Cooking From Scratch Even Mean?



You’ve decided to reduce the amount of processed food you eat on a regular basis and now know that it’s time to equip yourself with the necessary culinary skills so that you can thrive in the kitchen and thoroughly enjoy the meals you prepare for yourself.

Are you looking to ditch the ready meals and begin putting freshly prepared meals on the table each evening? This month we’re running a series called Cooking From Scratch for Beginners. Our goal is to answer all your questions and to make it a whole lot easier to cook from scratch.




You may be thinking:

Where do I start? What types of food should be eating? What is cooking from scratch? 

In this blog, I’ll share the answers to the three questions above so that you can make better food choices starting today and embark on your culinary journey.

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Cooking from scratch

It’s a term that has been tossed around a lot, perhaps by a grandparent or one of your own parents. But what exactly is “cooking from scratch?” 

Obviously, you might say it's self-explanatory but at Box’d Fresh, we feel that the importance of home cooking has waned. Not least because the average time that people spend cooking a meal since 1980 has halved. 

We’re on a mission to change this by getting people comfortable with the idea of cooking on a regular basis and hence, helping them to steer clear from ready meals. 

There are many more advantages to preparing a fresh dinner, which I’ll cover later in this series

Artefacts of old Chinese pot from thousands of years ago

Artefacts of old Chinese pot from thousands of years ago

Just before I get into our definition, it’s worth noting that cooking is inherent to human culture. From the Inuit of the Arctic to the hunter-gatherers of central Africa, we as a species are sustained by food that has been cooked by one of nature’s most important elements- fire. 

Cooking in its natural form involves the destruction of bad bacteria that would otherwise cause you to get violently sick. 

The earliest signs of humans cooking originate to China around 20,000 years ago, when some of the first pots were discovered. It’s clear that cooking has been a fundamental part of human evolution all the way up until modern society today.  

It’s one of the main reasons as to why I am such a strong advocate of one cooking as opposed to eating ready meals or processed food all the time. 

Cooking from scratch is wholesome and nourishing; free from ‘nasties’ and a traditional way of eating.


In the section below I’ll expand on each of the following:

Healthy and wholesome meal

Healthy and wholesome meal

Wholesome and nourishing 

Recent research has shown that cooking more often at home makes you more inclined to be healthier and save money. 

By cooking more often at home, you have a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet at a higher cost 


The quote above is from Adam Drewnowski, director of the UW's Center for Public Health Nutrition and senior author of "Cooking at home: A strategy to comply with U.S. dietary guidelines at no extra cost," published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 

Worryingly, supermarket ready meals and restaurant food tend to be high in fat, saturated fat and salt. 

In comparison, eating at home gives you control back over the food you cook and importantly allows you to cut out what the unhealthy stuff.

It also allows you to ensure that you’re getting the recommended amounts of food into your diet, which is even more important if you have children to look after. 

For example, findings by the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that the average Brit consumes nearly half of the recommended daily intake of 30g of fibre. 

By cooking at home with fresh ingredients, you could quite easily prepare yourself some additional fibre-packed foods including broccoli, potatoes, and pulses to have with your meal to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet.   

Even cooking dinner frequently without trying to be healthier or lose weight is associated with a consumption of healthier diet. 

Bottomline: start home cooking more each week and you’ll be healthier without trying (quite literally).

Food manufacturing plant

Food manufacturing plant

Free from ‘nasties’

Processed foods are everywhere, despite numerous warnings from health professionals to avoid the stuff.

I can’t blame you. They taste delicious and look perfectly normal to the naked eye. 

However, did you know that one factory can produce 250,000 meals in a single day with each containing up to 70 ‘ingredients’ in each of them?

What’s actually going into each of these 3 billion pre-prepared meals us Brits consume on a yearly basis?

Synthetic vitamins

Synthetic vitamins

Synthetic vitamins and minerals

As a result of the intensive cooking processes that ready meals undergo when being prepared many of the essential nutrients and vitamins are lost from the food. Hence, most ready meals are devoid of any natural goodness. 

Because this may appear unattractive to consumers shopping in a supermarket, a variety of ‘fake’ vitamins and minerals are added to the dish instead to boost their nutrition profile. 

However, what you probably don’t know is that these components cannot easily replace their natural and original source. They are more difficult for the body to digest and are simply chemicals that the meal already is pumped full of.    

Unhealthy food

Unhealthy food

‘Bad’ fats

Companies are driven by profit, so it’s unsurprising that they’ll often replace health-boosting ingredients for options that are less nourishing but are significantly cheaper. 

For instance, extra virgin olive oil which has many benefits to its consumption is replaced in ready meal recipe meals by vegetable oils such as rapeseed and sunflower oil which have no known health benefits and no research indicates that any level of human consumption is beneficial. 

Additives

Additives

Additives and preservatives 

As well as all the other so-called ingredients that are packed into a ready meal, they also contain a number of additives and preservatives. 

Because of the low level of quality that is used in ready meals, food manufacturers need something else to make the meal more appealing to your palate otherwise you wouldn’t want to eat them. 

Consequently, chemicals are added to the dish to enhance its final taste and extend its shelf life and in turn make big profits for food producers. 

Have you ever wondered why a ready meal can last up to seven days in your fridge? 

Well, now you’ve got your answer. 

The issue with all these chemicals and additional elements add to the meal is that they can disrupt your normal hormonal balance, alter the genetic makeup of your body and many are carcinogenic. 

Ready meal with high salt content

Ready meal with high salt content

Excess salt

Salt has been used for centuries to extend shelf life, improve texture and enhance the flavour of food.

It’s also a great source of sodium, which is a vital electrolyte that helps us to stay sufficiently hydrated, but is now being used excessively by food manufacturers in cooking to make food taste more appetising.

The government’s Food Standards Agency revealed that over half of ready meals contained more than 40% of an adult’s daily salt maximum. 

An excessive amount of salt can cause the body to retain fluid around the heart which causes high blood pressure, heart failure, strokes and even heart attacks. 

Ready meal with 10tsp of sugar

Ready meal with 10tsp of sugar

Full of sugar

Some supermarket ready meals have almost twice as much as sugar as a can of Coca-cola. 

When sugar is consumed excessively it spikes insulin in your bloodstream, which leads to whatever you’re eating being stored as fat. This is a serious concern because people are consuming more than three times the amount of sugar that is recommended. 

The new sugar tax is estimated to save the NHS £15bn and save 80,000 lives in a single generation by discouraging people from eating sugary food and drinks. 

Bottom line: cooking more will help you to avoid eating ready meals and restaurant food which contain an excessive amount of fat, sugar and salt as well as other nasties like additives and preservatives.

Cows grazing on lush green pastures

Cows grazing on lush green pastures

Traditional way of eating

You might be wondering:

What exactly is a traditional way of eating?

Choosing real food and cooking yourself. As such, you'll be avoiding modern agricultural and manufacturing process.

Traditional foods are:

  • Foods in their natural and original form
  • Foods that are known to be healthy and nutritious, particularly energy boosting
  • Foods that are simple and basic

Traditional food is simple, grown and harvested (preferably) in natural ways (free-range/ organic/ humanely). 

In the simplest explanation, traditional foods focused on four basic principles: 1) avoidance of modern, refined foods; 2) celebration of unrefined, whole and natural foods; 3) respecting the importance of nutrient-density in our food and 4) preparing and eating foods in the same manner that nourished our ancestors and kept them well. In essence, if your great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, don’t put it in your mouth.


From Nourished Kitchen

Summary 

So, now you know what cooking from scratch means. It’s more than just cooking for yourself.

It’s about eating food that nourishes you, is free from all the horrible stuff that is put in food by manufacturers that we can’t see and marks a return to a traditional way of eating. 

Now, I don’t want to complicate things unnecessary or act like the ‘health police’ but it’s so important that we’re a part of the movement back to real food as opposed to being on the wrong side of it.

I love ice-cream and pizza, probably too much sometimes and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

But, making small changes to your life like cooking a bit more can make such a positive difference in one’s life. 

My challenge to you is to find out what works best and see if you could set aside one or two days a week for cooking a freshly prepared meal. 

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