Diets make room for healthy cooking

The new year brings a healthy change of focus: stop thinking about calories and take a closer look at recipes that help you make delicious yet light home-cooked meals. Modern cooking steps into the domestic domain.

Starting to cook again at home

“Though there’s nothing wrong with starting a diet per se, I prefer to focus on changes that make me more excited to cook at home, rather than focusing on calories or cleanliness,” declares Claire Lower in Kitchen Resolutions You Should Make for a Delicious 2016. And she hits the nail right on the head. From a psychological perspective, it’s much more intriguing to focus on positive words like “excited” than words with more negative connotations such as “calories,” more synonymous with “enemy,” “depression,” and a host of others. From a nutritional point of view, all recommendations point towards learning how to eat to maintain a youthful, illness-free body.

Diets are like slapping a patch over our frenetic consumerism; they are our “penitence” for indulgent overeating throughout the rest of the year. But the 21st century insists that eating goes far beyond those few extra pounds: we are what we eat. (“I am how I eat”) is the name of just one of many digital nutrition magazines, such as foodandnutrition or, that contribute to bringing awareness to society about how food, on a daily basis, conditions our future and our ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. And that taking care of yourself can be perfectly compatible with pleasure.

Relearning how to eat

The key is learning or relearning how to eat. Go back over the family habits you learned as a child, the addictive food filling our pantries, our trips to the grocery store… and start on the vital path of learning basic cooking techniques that teach us how to delve into a simple yet flavorful world of cooking.

Making a Bundt Cake at home

“In general, I would say it’s important to learn to make basic, every day recipes before venturing little by little into more original dishes and presentations,” says María José at Aprende a cocinar.

These days, it’s easy to learn basic cooking skills by watching YouTube, following culinary blogs, or signing up for virtual or in-person cooking classes, either general courses, or ones for specific recipes or cooking styles. The important thing about modern cooking is to begin with what you are most attracted to: desserts, soups, breakfast foods… Learning to cook is fluid, as it corresponds to each stage of life: everyone starts where they like and creates their own learning path.

Learn to cook in a group

New cookbook clubs have sprung up out of this interest to discover cooking, which are basically informal culinary get-togethers inspired by what we find in recipe books. “The idea behind Cookbook Club is a simple one—a group of friends all make recipes from the same book and gather to share the results, a crowdsourced feast,” says Tara Austen at How to start a cookbook club. She adds, “None of us are professional cooks. We like food, we’re a little adventurous, but most of all, we’re willing to try.” In other words, participants dedicate a Sunday to cooking, trying different dishes, and meeting other people interested in sharing their new passion: cooking. So much better than a diet club, right?

Another trend continuing into 2016 is the boom in cooking workshops to learn techniques and recipes in a group setting. Workshops are conceived as both a learning space and a source of entertainment, making for a formula that is revolutionizing the universe of training and education. People turn up to learn, but also to meet other people and spend a Saturday afternoon taking part in a fun and useful activity, or so report many workshop teachers.

Home cooking in 2016

“Do yourself a favor, apply these ideas to your everyday diet and you’ll eat more cheaply and healthily, with a lot more flavor, and you’ll definitely be happier,” says Mikel López Iturriaga, one of Spain’s most famous culinary bloggers on his blog El comidista in the newspaper El País. Mikel proposes ideas that are whizzing around on the social networks, such as:

  • Eating homemade recipes and not prepared food
  • Creating dishes with healthy vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins
  • Planning your weekly grocery shopping, and if it’s local, even better
  • Devoting an afternoon to cooking the bases for the week
  • Cooking and freezing
  • Steaming, using anti-stick pans and the oven rather than frying and sautéing
  • Reveling in legumes: it’s their official year

Cooking at home! adds that healthy cooking is a continuation of the 2015 boom, which this year will turn more organic and home-made, furthering the “free-from” trend. They also mention that home delivery from quality restaurants and home-cooking establishments will be big this year. The magazine Professional Horeca insists that vegetables will be take on a central role, alongside simplicity and traditional cooking.

As for the North American National Restaurant Association (NRA), they predict the success this year of local food, healthy children’s foods, new cuts of meat, unrefined fats, fresh homemade sausages and learning how to manage food waste.


El comidista
Profesional Horeca
Top food trends

Diet becomes a health promoter

From the 20th to the 21st century, people from Europe and North America have changed their diet based on vegetables and cereal into one of excessive milk, meat and pre-cooked food. The industrialization of the food sector, the food and gastronomic globalization, fast-food, the increasing consumption of food additives as well as standardization at the expense of native cuisine, are just some of the main changes.

In opposition to these sources of disease and obesity habits, there were also nutritional discoveries, the reassessment of the family, an increase in cooking blogs, high performance cooking utensils and innovative gastronomic trends, which are creating social awareness around food as an investment in health.

A change of habits

The turn of the century has produced new habits due to the incorporation of women to work, an increase in living standards and the growth of food industry “The new ways of processing food that humanity discovered created healthier food”, says Michael Pollan, an American journalist that specializes in food. “Food industry -says Pollan- is the main responsible for us giving up on cooking. (…) Food has been wisely manipulated to be addictive and very hard to stop eating”.

According to the report “Consumption and consumer trends in the 21st century” of the National Consumption Institute of Spain (Instituto Nacional del Consumo de España) the 21st century reveals a marked tendency of buying spicier food with an increment in frozen goods, that we dedicate less time buying and cooking with a tendency to a single-course meal, that we eat more pre-cooked and delivered food watching TV, and finally, that there’s a tendency to be on periodic diets.

DiY Food

The counter-revolution towards health through feeding

“Over the last 30 years we have allowed food industry to cook for us and I think that it’s time to realize that it has been a failed experience”, proclaims Pollan. Different phenomenons prove that part of the population understood it in the same way:

  • The expansion of organic farming that gives quality and added values to natural products
  • Preventive campaigns for food-related diseases
  • Sharing of family recipes on culinary blogs
  • Massive sales of quality utensils for a healthier cooking
  • Emergence of food for specific groups
  • A new concept of functional food

Nutrition, a science fashion

Since 1950, when the first classic book about Nutrition was published after years of wars, famine and malnutrition, there has been a huge circulation of Nutrition, diet and health information on mass media and the Internet. Healthy nutrition searches have increased by 30% on average since 2004 in the United States.
These are the top trending topics in searches of the last 12 months:

"healthy food" Searches on

"Healthy Food" Related topics

The huge amount of information and interests also cause a “misinformation” effect or fake myths that confuse people, such as eggs being the source of high cholesterol. To face this problem Institutions have emerged in different countries to become an authorized voice in nutritional information. Nowadays, for example, is common for chronic diseases concerning diet such as diabetes or heart trouble, that hospitals and medical groups -such as the American Diabetes Association-, create self-help communities supported by patients, which guarantee true information.

Blogs encourage home-made cooking

The legacy of gastronomic wisdom passed from mother to daughter has vanished with the change of habits. Nowadays, few dishes are prepared which are learned through practice.

Home made food by Sharmaine

Men and women that did received that cooking legacy were worried about its downfall and decided to make use of new technologies to share their legacy through a blog. Their educational vocation has produced an increase in people’s interest for easy and delicious home-made cooking. “In addition, there was a comeback of high-quality iron pans, like those used by our grandparents, that retain and enhance the original taste of food without using chemical non-sticks”, explains Lecuine, one of the main european kitchenware e-commerces.

According to the Mapfre Foundation report “Food and society in the Spain of the 21st century (“Alimentación y sociedad en la España del siglo XXI”) those who cook at home today, decide -what to cook- depending on (in this order): home members’ tastes, health, their own taste, price, balance and ingredients of the dish, which reveals a concern on what is being eaten.

“Cooking isn’t hard -says Karlos Arguiñano, one of the most famous chefs in Spain. You can prepare lentils in 40 or 50 minutes. And you don’t have to look after them”. Bloggers are responsible for this change of mind on cooking as an activity for specific moments that can be quickly done, in tune with our times, rather than an obligation.

There’s also a new generation of mothers and fathers that share their experience as parents, gathering to generate a collective awareness on education and their sons’ diet: What kind of men and women of the future are we creating?

Specific diet needs are introduced into supermarkets

The 21st century is about low-calories diet, light food and enriched milk… but also about the gluten-free and lactose-free diet, reduced in salt and sugar, cholesterol-free, and that of the responsibility to inform about the origin of fresh food and its traceability. Also, those groups with special needs on their diets are targets for industrial products and bloggers recipes within a society that is starting to be aware about nutritional differences.

Today there are also emerging diet sectors such as energetic food for athletes, multigrain and seeds for kids, or those for pregnancy or the elderly… Cities are witnesses of the appearance of brand-new organic and vegetarian shops in their neighbourhoods that promote and educate on a healthy diet, while ecological vegetable gardens distribute to them or home deliver their products. The world is getting aware of the fact that there’s not unique diet but nutritional needs according to age, habits, health and personal preferences.

Food is physical and mental well-being

“There are some specific natural ingredients that are able to play an important role in prevention and treatment of certain diseases”, says Ascensión Marcos, Director of the Nutrition and Bromatology Institute of the CSIC, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Recent scientific Research has created the concept of functional food, which is able to give us more than pure nutritional benefits, in a natural way or just with an artificial added ingredient.
“Countries such as the United States of America have experienced a spectacular rise of the functional food market with an investment of 17.000 million dollars, followed by Europe with 14.000 million dollars. According to estimates, In 2010 functional food will move around 80.000 million dollars, which represents a 5% of the food market worldwide”, claims “El Cultural” Magazine.

“The evidence that a healthy diet is one of the bases of health has been consolidating in our lifestyle over the last years”, affirms on the presentation of the report “New food for new needs” (“Nuevos alimentos para nuevas necesidades”) the Institute of Public Health of Spain. In the report, it provides the information that “32% of european consumers consider health when consuming food. In the United States, 52% of consumers think that food could replace medicine and 70% know about certain food components that could prevent cancer”.

Today, food is expected to help with aging while maintaining a good quality of life. Anti-age diets are also a big growing sector.

“Without almost realizing, the members of a developed society are changing food habits for those of diet food, from buying and consuming food to the nutrients, from concerns on healthy food to nutritionism, and from the ideal of a healthy diet to that of an optimal diet”, concludes Luis Amaia Álvarez on his report “Life and food Studies”. This is another effect of the social awareness of the world we live in.


  1. That’s how the spanish ate and eat: How our diet has changed in 50 years  – El Confidencial
  2. The evolution of diet in the 21st century” – María Tagle, Anales de la Universidad de Chile
  3. The evolution of food and food habits in the 21st century –  José Ramón Tormo Capsir
  4. Food and society in the 21st century Spain
    Fundación Mapfre
  5. Consuming and consumer trends in the 21st century – Instituto Nacional del Consumo de España
  6. Five recipes of Karlos Arguiñano to eat and hook up well – El confidencial
  7. The diet of the 21st century – El cultural
  8. New food por emerging needs” – Instituto de Salud Pública de España
  9. Life and food studies – Luis Álvarez Munárriz, catedrático de Antropología social de la Universidad de Murcia, Amaia Álvarez De Luis, profesora de Biología en el IES “Sierra de Leyre” de Sangüesa, Navarra, Gazeta de Antropología

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