Nutrition is a tricky topic for many people, and there’s a significant gap between understanding nutritional science and putting it into practice. But with about a third of the American population falling in the ‘obese’ weight category and a growing number of people with diet-related diseases, it’s an issue that simply must be addressed.
Culinary Nutrition: A Sustainable Approach to Improving Health
There are generally two key barriers that prevent people from eating healthy on a regular and long-term basis: not understanding what ‘healthy’ really is, and not knowing how to apply that knowledge in the kitchen. These barriers tend to result in insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables, poor food preparation and cooking skills, and an increased reliance on take-out meals lacking in nutritional value.
Culinary nutrition tackles the aforementioned barriers head-on, combining nutrition principles, food science, and culinary skills to provide a well-rounded, practical approach to healthy eating.
“Culinary nutrition isn’t about dieting – it’s about creating sustainable, healthy behaviors around food, and using that food to fuel, nourish, and heal your body,” explains Marcos Lussio, a Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert with the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. “It makes nutrition and healthy eating both accessible and practical, and having both is key to creating lasting change.”
Among other things, a culinary nutrition approach emphasizes:
● Nutrient-dense foods
● Healthy fats
● Pure ingredients that come from nature
● Healthy (and simple) cooking techniques
So, how do you apply the principles of culinary nutrition in everyday life?
According to Lussio, the first step is to reconnect with our food. “We’ve become completely detached from where our food comes from and what it’s really supposed to do for us.” Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has talked about this extensively. He notes that most of us are no longer eating food. Rather, we’re consuming ‘edible, foodlike substances’ that are the product of food science, not nature.
“Culinary nutrition is all about eating whole foods in their most natural form,” says Lussio. “The goal is to reduce or eliminate processed food products and instead focus on real food that benefits the body.” Remember: food comes from farms, not the grocery store. If it’s made in a factory and contains ingredients you can’t pronounce, it shouldn’t form a significant part of your diet.
Once you understand what healthy food is – and what it isn’t – it’s time to put it into practice. Lussio suggests taking one day per week (likely on the weekend) to plan your meals and prep your ingredients. If you always know what you’re eating and have the ingredients ready, you’re less likely to reach for a takeout menu.
What makes a culinary nutrition approach sustainable is that it isn’t about restricting caloric intake – it’s about using your calories wisely to fuel your body and ensure it’s getting everything it needs to maintain proper function. Rather than shying away from flavorful foods, salt, and fat, you learn how to choose nutrient-dense options that are simple to prepare and delicious to enjoy. This helps create confidence in the kitchen and supports the development of healthy eating behaviors that stick with you long-term.