Wellness Wednesday: Why I Don't Food Prep
“Cook Once, Eat All Week”
A popular trend with not-so-popular side-effects.
Don’t get me wrong, food prepping is great. “Cook Once, Eat All Week” is a popular health trend right now - one that gets people cooking, which is certainly a step in the right direction. This has been a great solution for people who want to cook their own meals but are too busy to cook everyday. Although the benefits of food prepping are certainly better than the most immediate alternative (eating out or eating fast food), I’m here to share the ugly part of food prepping from an Ayurvedic perspective, and to share some suggestions on food prepping to get the most benefit from your food.
We Are What We Eat - what does that say about eating old food?
We all know the age-old adage “we are what we eat”. In Ayurveda, we are what we digest and assimilate. Food is fullest in prana (life force energy) when it’s in its natural state, fresh and raw. The moment food is picked, it starts to die. The moment picked food is cooked, it starts to decompose. The longer food sits in the fridge after it’s cooked, the more it’s decomposed. Case in point: take out that one-month old container of leftover whateverthefuck in the back of your fridge and look inside. I digress… when we eat food that’s fresh, we’re turning a LOT of prana into a lot of ojas (life essence). When we eat food that’s old, we’re eating a little bit of prana and a lot of “non-prana”. The less prana present in our food, the more “non-prana” and therefore ama (undigested food, toxic buildup) we get. Ama is a normal by-product of digestion but we work hard to reduce AMAP (as much ama as possible - totally just made up that acronym) because who wants that stuff floating around our bodies?? So the point about eating old food is, why would we eat food that makes ama?
So What Constitutes “Old” Food?
Food should be eaten right away. Any leftovers should be eaten as the subsequent meal. We really shouldn’t be eating food that’s more than a day old.
“Just Because You Cook For A Living Doesn’t Mean You Can Talk Poo About Other Peoples’ Meal Solutions.”
True. I get you. Although my vitiated pitta loves talking poo, I’m also here to help. Besides eating raw food (which actually is contraindicated for vata people), here are my tried-and-true solutions for creating prana-full food on a daily basis:
Carve out one hour of your morning to cut up ingredients and throw them into your slow cooker before heading to work. You’ll have dinner already made the moment you get home. Estimated time saved: 2 hours.
Carve out 30 minutes of your morning to cut up ingredients, store them in the fridge, and take them out when you’re ready to cook. You can even do it the night before, but I wouldn’t recommend anything earlier. Estimated time saved: 0.5 hour.
Soak the “headache” ingredients overnight: beans, lentils, rice, quinoa, basically anything that’s a seed that’s dry. Soaking cuts your cooking time in half. Soaking also breaks down the enzymes that inhibit digestion, so soaking improves upon the digestibility of these ingredients! (Seeds are ultra-protective pods, shielding consumers from its valuable procreative information inside so that it can grow into a plant. You can imagine the subsequent arsenal of gut-provocation; hence, beans beans the more you eat, the more you fart.) Also, do not cook your seeds in any type of acid because acid inhibits the cooking. Wait till the end to reduce or finish your dish with lemon juice/vinegar/wine. Estimated time saved: 0.5 - 1 hour.
Use a pressure cooker. Better yet, get an Instant Pot and have 10 cooking functions in one.
Make oft-used spice blends ahead of time in a large jar. A spice blend is a consistent combination of spices you use on a regular basis to season your food. For example, I make a lot of kitchari. I have a jar of “Kitchari Spice Blend” that I scoop 1 or 2 tablespoons out of each time I need it, instead of annoyingly scooping 1/4 tsp from 8 different jars. Estimated time saved: 1 minute (but still, worth the convenience factor).
Of course, subscribing to a meal ingredient delivery service like Sunbasket, Home Chef, and Purple Carrot are great time-savers too, but I sorta wonder about the origins of their ingredients sometimes. Also, the packaging waste is atrocious. I need to come up with an Ayurvedic version of this. Estimated time saved: 2 hours.
Simply take a few breaths and slow the heck down. Change your perspective on food preparation. Food is important and you should treat it as such. Since when was working more important than eating? Since when was anything else more important than your health? Never. Get back to your natural state and shift your day so that you can make an intentional meal with the ultimate gift from yourself - presence. Estimated time saved: timeless.
I hope this was helpful, thought-provoking (if not just provoking), and got you to rethink some things about your relationship with food. Big changes take little steps, compassion, and patience. Good luck and good digestion to you all!