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Do You Have to Love Cooking to Eat a Real Food Diet?

“I just don’t like cooking,” is often an excuse when people want to avoid cooking real food and stick with processed foods and quick meals.

That phrase turns my head quickly, and my shock factor kicks in.

“You don’t like cooking?” the voice in my head cries.

But…when I analyze my own time in the kitchen, it could be said that I don’t always like cooking, either.

Eating, on the other hand, I love.

Mexican chicken soup

Nourishing my family is an obligation in my book, a promise I made to my kids when I signed on for the job of motherhood.

Therefore if A and B are true, then C = thou shalt cook unprocessed foods.

There is simply no other option for me.

I Didn’t Grow Up Cooking Real Food

As I grew into an adult, I filled out countless “about me” forms throughout high school, college, entering the workforce. Under “hobbies” I never once listed “cooking.” Nor baking, or food shopping, or cutting vegetables, or gardening, nor any hobbies that had anything remotely to do with food.

I didn’t participate much in making dinner while I was living at home, although I remember once brazenly attempting a two-layer cake, from scratch, for a cake raffle for my cheer team.

My own dad won the cake…and it was pretty dry and cardboard-like. My mother may have been a good example of real food cooking, but we had some work to do on my technique.

When I finally had my own kitchen in college, I perused “Quick Cooking” magazines all one summer, and I suppose I did start having a little fun with food at that time. It was “cooking” in that it wasn’t really UNprocessed food, just putting together a lot of processed food, but it was a good first step.

Real food hamburger helper


As a young married couple with two of us working, we ate Hamburger Helper (cringe-here is my healthy version to substitute) about once a week but also had stir fry with real ingredients regularly and probably ate better than many in our state in life – but still not anywhere close to what I would not call a real food diet and no emphasis on natural or organic foods. We didn’t have the budget or the motivation.

Kids will give you that motivation.

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Learning How to Cook With Real Food 

It was when I was expecting my first that I finally started thinking about not just “eating low fat” but about how the foods we were putting in our mouths might nourish and affect our bodies.

We ditched the margarine and turned to butter, started using whole wheat flour, and I began reducing the sugar I added to homemade quick breads.

When my son was born, everything that went into his mouth had to pass muster with my personal nutrition guide. With that tiny body, each bite seemed so important.

yogurt with blueberries

I didn’t even consider NOT making my own baby food, and I started buying organic foods for the first time, just for him. Homemade yogurt entered our lives, and since I was mostly staying at home, I had time and energy to figure out more unprocessed, from-scratch cooking.

Since then, it’s been a slippery slope. I can’t even count all the ways in which our diets – and my kitchen – have changed in the last eight years.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I tell people, “If it comes in a jar, a bottle, or a box, I probably make it myself instead.” 

All our birthday cakes, as you might guess, are also from scratch.

Is Cooking Real Food My Hobby Now?

Even though I blog about real food, create recipes, and teach an online kids’ cooking course, I still feel like I have so much to learn in the kitchen. I sure do get a lot of practice though!

Once you’ve experienced a real food diet and shopping for vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow, there’s just no turning back.

Not only do I notice the “yuck” feeling on a compromise restaurant meal, but reading the ingredients on most processed foods makes me feel almost as sick. I can’t buy them, no matter how tempting convenience sounds. Natural, organic, unprocessed foods are our way of life, and I do feel like it’s an obligation to my family – and an investment in our good health in the long run – that I continue our good eating habits.

That means I will spend much of my time cooking, whether it’s something I enjoy or not.

Katie Kimball teaching kids about Instant Pot lid

Might it be my new hobby?

I’ve always loved reading, and I do notice that much of my casual reading, outside of books for a book club or Bible study, end up being about food. When I leave a conversation feeling energized and excited about it, it’s often been about food.

Food and cooking never was a hobby, but it’s taken over my recreation time and becoming part of the hobbies I did use to list on “about me” questionnaires.

I never thought I loved cooking, but I guess it really is “my thing.”

How do you feel about cooking? Is it a hobby or obligation for you?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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2 thoughts on “Do You Have to Love Cooking to Eat a Real Food Diet?”

  1. It’s wonderful that you made real food cooking “your thing” for your family. They are blessed!

    Real food cooking is my thing also simply due to necessity–I wanted my family to be as properly nourished as possible. I used to love getting in the kitchen. After my daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s and my three youngest of nine were born with food allergies, I spent so much time in the kitchen that I should have installed a second oven to use as a bed. My husband’s 25-year pendulum of different approaches to eating, some disordered eating in the family, and efforts to heal guts affordably on a musician’s income has left me burned o-u-t! I look longingly at the moms who can and do feed their kids frozen pizza. While that’s not what I want my children to eat, that’s the energy I have for feeding everyone in this stage of life. Then, of course, I feel bad for not being more enthusiastic about feeding my family! I still do it, and I still do it well, but I miss the old me’s enthusiasm. (I don’t think I’ve ever used “me” as a possessive pronoun before, so that was pretty fun.)

    There’s another side to this story. I don’t even think about making bone broth these days. I do it so mechanically that there’s always a batch or two in the fridge and one in the crock with little to no effort. My toddlers and teens munch on cauliflower and carrots cheerfully and compare the heat of radishes with zeal. Put salmon on a plate and they squeal with joy! My older children each take a week to make breakfasts, and the health and creativity of that morning meal are beyond wonderful! My efforts all these years have paid off both in healthier children and in knowledgeable cooks. And during that time, I have come up with an arsenal of recipes that require minimal effort, and even the picky one will eat them with enthusiasm.

    So, yes, I’m burned out, but it’s all been worth it…except when I still see tummy trouble and other issues in my kiddos. Then I stare at the moms with the frozen pizzas.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Christy. We have allergies in the house that require us to eat very clean, all homemade as well. A lot of what you said really resonates with me. I’m glad you can see the positives in the situation and your hard work paying off even though you’re burned out. You’re doing a great job!

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