Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.
Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.
Today’s habit: Try a new recipe at home.
For whenever you’re feeling: Like you’re in the mood for learning something new; when you want to impress your friends/lovers/family.
What it is: Dust off those cookbooks; it’s time to find a new, preferably easy, recipe you can make at home.
Listen, we know it’s easier to make the same meals for dinner every week, but at some point, we get really tired of eating pasta every night (This is no slight to pasta; we love you, pasta!). And if you have a family to cook for, including picky eaters, finding a new recipe might be doubly important.
With so many food blogs out there (we list our faves below), it can be overwhelming to find something new to add to our go-to meals. But, finding that one new recipe that we and our loved ones love can make the work worth it.
However, we recognize that not everyone has the time or means to cook a healthy meal every day; which is why we want to encourage you to try this only when you feel like you have the space and resources to do so. Maybe ask a partner or friend to look after the kids while you cook; or wait for certain ingredients to go on sale before you check them out. Whatever you decide to do, don’t pressure yourself — this should be about having fun.
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How it can help: You don’t have to have a joy for cooking but the act of it, especially when it’s a meal you’ve never tried before, does have benefits, emotionally, mentally, and nutritionally.
A 2018 paper, Psychosocial Benefits of Cooking Interventions: A Systematic Review, published in Health Education & Behavior, looked at previously published research on how cooking-based interventions, including baking, group cooking classes, and food prep, affected people’s health, confidence, self-esteem, socialization, and mood.
Although the study’s authors found that the quality of research was weak and limited, they suggested that cooking has a positive impact on people, although they noted more research needs to be done.
Creativity can increase happiness
However, some studies have shown links between doing small creative acts and positive mental health, and if cooking isn’t creative, then we don’t know what is.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology concluded that participating in an easy creative activity — such as cooking and baking— every day can increase happiness and make one feel more enthusiastic about their plans for the next day.
For example, if someone cooks a delicious meal one night, that feeling of accomplishment will make them more likely to keep cooking.
Cooking for others has also been shown to help people form bonds with others.
“There’s a tremendous amount of confidence-boosting and self-esteem boosting, performing an act like cooking for others,” Julie Ohana, a culinary art therapist, told HuffPost. “And that’s part of what lends itself to those psychological effects about being able to do something that you feel really good about.”
“Cooking can be a doorway to connection,” therapist Justyna Wawrzonek told Bustle. “For someone who struggles with social contact, the act of sharing one’s creation of a home cooked meal can be really powerful. Positive feedback and just seeing someone else enjoy, appreciate and value your creation (the meal) has major implications for rebuilding one’s self of worth and value.”
Cooking for one
If you’re cooking a new recipe for yourself, not only are you eating more healthfully because you’re more mindful of what you’re putting in your body, but you’re expanding the nutritional variety of your meals. More flavours and healthy foods = winning!
If anything, trying something new adds some (literal) spice to life. “Choosing a new recipe every week forced us to think (somewhat) outside the box,” Heather Mayer Irvine wrote on Runner’s World about her experience trying a new recipe every week for two months.
“You get used to eating healthy and then you end up circulating the same foods, and that runs the risk of boredom,”registered dietitian Lisa Bruno told Runner’s World. “As soon as you get bored, you no longer like that food and you may start craving foods that aren’t the most healthy.”
So, maybe it’s time you asked a loved one for The Joy of Cooking, which, coincidentally, has just been re-released with an updated 2019 edition.
How to start: Look at what you’re currently eating during the week. Is there anything missing that you think you need in your diet? Maybe you need more iron — a quick online search yields dozens of recipes. Or perhaps you want to try a #MeatlessMonday meal — Pinterest has loads of delicious and easy options. In fact, Pinterest is a treasure-trove of meal ideas; all you have to do is search for what you want, be it easy dinners recipes, dinners for two, and healthy recipes.
Don’t have time to cook? Check out meal subscription boxes such as HelloFresh, Chef’s Plate, GoodFood, MissFresh, and Cook It. You can also prep larger meals in advance: make a batch of chili and throw it in the freezer. Voila, you have a few dinners ready to go.
Subscription boxes are also a good option for those who are beginner cooks; a box will come with all the ingredients and recipes you’ve likely never tried before. So not only do you get a delicious meal, you learn how to cook, too. And you can always cancel your subscription once you get the hang of your kitchen.
How it makes us feel: Full! Jk jk. In all seriousness, when we find a new recipe that we love and can add to our weekly rotation of meals, we feel really happy. Food makes us feel content and satisfied.
Our favourite food blogs:
And that’s your tip of the day.
Also on HuffPost: