Could the power of a home-cooked meal heal what divides us?
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This is part one of a 10-part series defining the top food & health trends of 2020.

There are plenty of what I call "hard" trends that are predicted to guide our food and eating choices this year, those centered on nutrients or nutrition, ingredients, appliances, or ethical concerns. What I'd like to focus on, though, as we just start to dip our toes into a new decade, is a "soft" trend that I believe will be a powerful force in 2020: a return to simple home cooking.

As everyone is painfully aware, this is an election year—one that sees us more divided in our country than ever, it seems. Folks are staunchly on one side or another, with little to no meeting in the middle. I observed this in action over the holidays, when interactions with some friends and family who mean the world to me rang a little hollow; we were all treading so lightly lest anything political come up that our conversations simply weren't substantive. We made light chit chat about the weather or what our kids wanted for Christmas, but didn't get into how or what we'd been doing lately, let alone how or what we were feeling.

When we find ourselves so uncomfortably untethered to our larger community, we look for meaning and connection in other places. That's where simple home cooking comes in. It's a way to grab hold of warm feelings and fond memories, a tangible, real (not digital or virtual) way to bring joy and comfort to those we love most. After all, a pot of chicken noodle soup or a plate of meat loaf and mashed potatoes can evoke powerful feelings of warmth, love, and caring—feelings that bring us together instead of driving us apart. As we happily slurp up the soup in our bowls, we reminisce about Grandma's fragrant homemade chicken stock or giggle over that time Uncle Bert thought it would be fun to tint his soup green for St. Patrick's Day.

And as we've reported time and time again, cooking at home is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family. You put your love on the table not only because you're preparing food for sustenance, but also because you're inherently making healthier choices—more vegetables and far less sugar and salt than takeout—that lead to better overall nutrition for the people you love.

Simple home cooking is in itself an act of love. It has the power to bring us together, to create a sense of commonality and communion, to rouse feelings of gratitude—things we'll yearn for this year. It's also something you can do every day to build greater bonds and create new memories, because it's simple home cooking, after all. Here are some of my family's favorites, dishes that always make us happy to gather together, to get you started, You can also easily add these surefire hits to your personalized Cooking Light Diet meal plan so your family can enjoy them, too.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Skillet Chicken and Root Vegetable Potpie

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Chicken and Gnocchi Dumpling Soup

Credit: Photo: John Autry

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Easier Chicken Noodle Soup

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

One-Skillet Vegetable Lasagna

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Slow Cooker Beef-and-Barley Stew

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

Family-Style Meatball "Fondue"

For more information on how to receive personalized meal plans to help you with simple home cooking in 2020, visit today.