1. Embrace the new variety.
Eating many different foods is the best way to enjoy a healthy diet. The global pantry and the local farmers’ market are open, expanding, and inspiring. Supermarkets and food companies are slowly wising up to our appetite for authentic flavors.
2. Cook more often.
All the talk about Americans being too busy to cook obscures a truth about millions of them. Our readers report that cooking is a stress-reliever, a bit of “me time” in a frantic world. Every meal cooked is a bit of control regained. Like any habit, cooking begets more of itself.
3. Eat more whole foods.
The fewer foods in your kitchen that come with long lists of processed ingredients, the better. Whole foods—including whole grains in their many baked and uncooked forms—contain the widest array of nutrients and fiber. This is not a ban on packaged foods but a judicious pruning of those that offer the false convenience of excessive processing.
4. Favor the healthy fats.
Generally that means more plant oils, more servings of certain oily fish, and less saturated fat from meat and dairy. The good news is that the percentage of fat in your diet is less significant than the source of those fats.
5. Eat less meat, more plants.
Push vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to the center of your plate, and push meat—beautifully cooked and flavored meat, mind you—to the side, in smaller quantities. Our recipes provide clear guidance on portions.
6. Cook seasonally and, when possible, locally.
This means enjoying the natural peak of peas and asparagus in spring, tomatoes in summer, apples in fall, root vegetables in winter— and taking advantage of imported foods that actually hold their flavor, like citrus. Out of season, visit the frozen-foods aisle for many vegetables, such as peas and corn, that retain not only their nutrients but also much of their sweet nature.
7. Learn new cooking techniques.
Kitchen proficiency is its own joy, but it’s essential for the daily cook. Confidence comes with practice. Attention to method will break old habits. There are technique and shortcut tips in The New Way to Cook Light cookbook and at cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/.
8. Buy the best ingredients you can afford.
Not necessarily the most expensive ingredients, but the best and most flavorful. Shopping in most cities is a great adventure. Find that perfect olive oil, that most intense aged cheddar.
9. Cook and eat mindfully and responsibly.
Healthy eating is about savoring every bite, being mindful of where food comes from, preparing it with care, and then sharing it joyfully with friends and family. It’s hard not to feel reverence for a farmer’s perfect tomato or a baker’s perfect boule, and then pleasure sharing it with people who also care.