Thoughts on health, happiness and sustainability

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All you need is healthy home cooked food. Right?

It is often said that a healthy diet consists of healthy home cooked food. We condemn fast food and ready meals as the root of all dietary evil and celebrities like Jamie Oliver try to encourage people to get healthy by coming “real food” at home.

I wholeheartedly support any initiative to get more people cooking and making their own meals at home. It increases peoples appreciation of food and helps to make them more aware of what they are putting in their bodies.

But there is a problem with this approach, which is that it doesn’t address any fundamental issues of healthy eating and good nutrition.  Cooking food at home does not make it inherently healthy. What matters is not where food is prepared or by whom, but the actual content of the food itself.

Even using what are generally considered to be “raw ingredients”, you can still easily make junk food in your own kitchen simply by using the same nutrient devoid substances used to make junk food such as white flour, sugar, salt, cheese and oil.  The sad fact is that one hell of a lot of home cooked food contains a lot of those ingredients together with other stuff that would rightly be considered junk food.

To compound the problem, a lot of people have lost perspective of what an ingredient really is and buy pre-prepared foods that they then add to their own “home cooked” dishes.  For example, pasta, pasta sauces, curry sauce, houmous, gravy mix, stock cubes, custard, jam, Yorkshire pudding, cereal, bread, biscuits and crackers, pizza bases (and whole oven pizzas), garlic bread, salad dressings, falafel, coleslaw, sausages, pastry, margarine, tofu, icing etc etc.

The point is that healthy food is healthy food and junk food is junk food, no matter whether you cook at home, heart ready meals in the microwave or eat out in restaurants. Home cooking is great and should be encouraged, but if we want to really improve people’s health then we need to educate people about nutrition rather than cooking as the priority.

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