The Jamie Oliver Effect: How You Can Use It To Simplify Your Meals (And Life)


I wish there were more Jamie Olivers in the world.

Foodies of influence who show you how to cook and help focus your attention on what’s right about food. No fear mongering, no hang-ups, no shoving ‘you-should-eat-this, you-can’t eat-that’ rules down your throat.

People who show you how amazing food is, and teach the know-how that makes eating pleasurable and healthy.

As an overweight teen and young adult, this was my biggest desire—to make peace with the food in my life, instead of feeling fearful and apprehensive at the thought of it.

From Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals to his school and home kitchen makeovers, here are my top 3 takeaways (pun intended) from years of watching his shows, reading his books and using his recipes, and how you can use them to make your meals and life a lot less complicated.

1. Cooking Is An Essential Life Skill

Watching him visit the homes of people who are severely obese and in need of a lifestyle makeover in his TV series, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, was heartbreaking and eye-opening.

It’s a brutal reminder of why not being in control of the food in your home is so damaging—and life threatening, and of how knowing the basics of cooking can make such a huge difference in your health and quality of life.

If all you’re eating are foods that are come in a box, plastic bag or off a menu at a restaurant with no clue of what goes into them, you could be putting your health at risk, regardless of whether you’re skinny or overweight.

You don’t need the skills of a restaurant chef to make meals that are delicious and good for your body.

Make it work: If you’re a complete newbie in the kitchen, start with the basics. Find out which foods can be eaten fresh without cooking, such as fruit and vegetables. Then learn how to boil water and cook an egg, how to cook pasta al dente, how to sauté and steam.

Start with your favorite ingredients.

A big plus point of knowing how to cook? You also set the tone for your family’s meals, and what goes into your kids’ lunch boxes.

YOU will be in control of teaching your family how to make and eat healthy, balanced meals, instead of leaving that task in the hands of major food companies that sell instant meals full of fake coloring, preservatives as well as sky-high levels of salt and sugar.

2. Fast Food Doesn’t Always Have To Mean Burgers And Fries

If a nearby fast food drive-through is the only place you head to when you’re hungry because you’re short on time and energy, there’s something you need to know: Delicious meals don’t have to take a lot of time to make, or cost an arm or a leg.

Make it work: Once you’re familiar with the cooking basics, invest in a cookbook or two (or scour online recipe sites you like), have up to 5 easy-to-make recipes you love that won’t take you more than 15-30 minutes to make, on hand—bookmarked, printed or recorded in a food journal—for busy days ahead.

Ready-to-go ingredients that have been portioned out or cooked beforehand (my favorite quick-meal standby ingredients include frozen vegetables, sauces, tortilla wraps, meat and quinoa or rice) can cut down your total preparation time and make cooking fast meals a breeze.

By preparing all the ingredients ahead, I can have a bowl of homemade spaghetti Bolognese, with a delicious, hearty sauce made from scratch ready in just 10 minutes—a huge sanity saver when I don’t have much time to cook.

3. Simplicity Is A Home Cook’s Best Friend

You don’t need to go shopping for 30 fancy ingredients, spend a fortune or commit complicated cooking methods to memory to whip up yummy, 5-star meals at home.

Make it work: Equip your kitchen and pantry with the right tools (you don’t need everything in the store) and ingredients you love that allow you to be an efficient cook.

Get reasonably good at the basic cooking methods and a handful of recipes that work for you, then expand your repertoire from there. You don’t have to learn 10 new recipes every week, or master how to make a soufflé right (mine still falls flat, but oh well) right now.

Just learned how to cook chicken? Inch out of your comfort zone by cooking it 3 other ways. Spend a little bit of time on the weekend discovering how spices, herbs and sauces can make your food taste amazing.

That little sprinkle of Cajun seasoning or butter into the pan? Best call ever.

Start simple, and start small.

You’ll soon be amazed at how something as simple as cooking your own meals can make a big difference in your life (and waistline).