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Natural Awakenings

Sustainable Home Cooking: Ten Reasons to Take Back the Plate

Apr 01, 2010 03:00AM ● By Rich Sanders

We’re all cooks now. Or at least, we should be. The word is spreading about healthy home cooking and its connection to sustainable, local food. Here are 10 reasons to help you get cooking with conviction.


1. It’s economical
Home cooking saves money. At a restaurant, you’re spending dollars on the cost of running somebody’s business. Purchasing prepared food from the grocer’s freezer involves paying for the processing, packaging and advertising of that product. When you cook sustainably, you take savings to the next level, using locally raised and produced food, so you’re not footing the bill for transporting ingredients across the country or around the globe.

2. It’s safer
When you cook, you have more control over what goes into your body. By buying organic, sustainably raised or minimally treated meat, dairy and produce, you can dramatically reduce your consumption of food contaminated by chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics or harmful bacteria.

3. It’s healthier
You have control over the nutritional value of the foods you prepare. Locally grown food is fresher and more nutritious. Cooking methods also count. For example, roasting a vegetable preserves vitamins that are wasted by boiling it; retaining the peel on many fruits and vegetables provides additional vitamins. Are you watching your salt or sugar intake or keeping an eye on fats or carbohydrates? You’re in control of all of these when you are the cook.

4. It tastes better
We’re losing our palates to an industrialized food system. Not so long ago, herbs, spices and sugar enhanced the flavor of our food. In recent decades, our taste buds have been corrupted by cheap chemicals and corn syrup. We’ve forgotten how wonderfully delicious fresh food tastes because we are acclimated to food polluted with preservatives. Sustainable, local ingredients just taste better, so let good food help you take back your palate, so you can take back your plate.

5. It tastes like you want it to
When you do your own cooking, you can customize the flavor to suit your own (or your family’s or guests’) preferences. Once you get the hang of it, experimentation is the name of the game. As you learn to cook sustainably, you’ll begin to find combinations of the tastes you like and which foods are especially healthy for you.

6. It’s satisfying
You’ll discover that you derive the same sense of satisfaction from learning to cook sustainably that many people get from working out. By preparing healthy meals with local ingredients, you can be confident that you’re doing something good for yourself, your family and the environment.

7. It makes reducing meat consumption easier
Many people are pledging to cut out meat one day a week for their own health and that of the planet. advises that going meatless once a week reduces our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It also reduces our carbon footprint and saves precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. Learning to cook helps you create signature meatless dishes, whether they’re twists on old standbys or tasty recipes that start out meat-free.

8. It’s a gift to future generations
If the good food movement is to succeed, it will be through our children; invite them to participate in cooking. Kids love to “play” in the kitchen, and there are dozens of ways they can be involved—from reading a recipe and washing produce to mixing nature’s ingredients and decorating healthful homemade cookies. Take kids shopping at farmers’ markets, so they can see the source of their recipe ingredients. Even better, take them to a farm, where they can follow the food trail from the beginning. They will learn by example and in a generation, healthy, sustainable home cooking will once again be the norm and not the exception.

9. It enriches your life
Involve friends in a sustainable dinner party, a perfect opportunity to build community and spread the word about sustainable local food. Download a Sustainable Dinner Party Kit at Sharing a meal together and engaging in face-to-face conversation with family or friends reinforces a precious bond.

10. It makes a statement
Learning to cook sustainably is an opportunity to vote with your soup pot, while you lobby with your fork; make it your own special way of furthering values you believe in—stewardship, responsibility, independence and loving care—by taking control of what goes onto your plate and taking away some of the power of industrialized agribusiness.

Rich Sanders, a lifelong foodie, is the director of Sustainable Table, at His corporate career has consistently married technology and the arts, in television, multimedia and software and Internet business development. Connect at [email protected].


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