The Nutrition Tradition That All Households Should Try

Sometimes the simplest weekly rituals are the ones you end up looking forward to most

A man seasoning food in a pan. Today we break down some easy nutrition advice: making one home-cooked meal a week.
Every household should have one night a week dedicated to a home-cooked meal.
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Steven Errico

Where I live, Mondays are Salmon Mondays. I go to the fishmonger on the way home from work to pick up a pound of salmon, plus whatever else my girlfriend and I need for salad, sauces and sides (rice, shallots, lemons, cucumbers, etc.). Once in a while, these side quests morph into a wild goose chase, like The Dill Weed Incident. But I do my best.

Typically, I’m home with the fish around 7 p.m., and we’re eating a half hour later. We’ve had Salmon Monday a dozen different ways, from miso-glazed to Tuscan-style to oven-marinated in maple butter and harissa paste, but otherwise the evening is remarkably consistent.

My girlfriend and I sit there, chatting about our days and chomping away in approval, complimenting each other on whatever contributions we’ve made (I cook the salmon and chop things, she does everything else). We eat until satisfied, then clean everything up and shut the kitchen down for the night. After that, we watch a show. That may sound like an unremarkable evening on its face, but this sort of home-cooked ritual can provide a litany of physical and mental health benefits.

One Wholesome Dinner a Week

It took me months to appreciate how helpful Salmon Mondays are for my early-week routine, and how special they are for our relationship. The tradition’s become a real anchor for us, conveying a bonanza of quiet benefits:

  • It guarantees one healthy dinner a week. Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12 and minerals like phosphorus and selenium.
  • It makes Monday — usually my moodiest, most high-stress 24 hours of the week — a day to look forward to. At the very least, it ensures that the day will end on a relaxing note.
  • It challenges my girlfriend and I to divvy up chores and complete a task, while gracing us the space and time to then appreciate what we’ve accomplished.
  • It gives me about 2,000 extra steps on the day. I like going to the fishmonger. It’s nice to go out into the world and tack on another human interaction, instead of resorting to anonymous grocery delivery.
  • It inspires research and bouts of creativity (especially on my girlfriend’s part…to whom I say, “Yes, Chef”). Far from boring, iterating on the same basic meal each week can be refreshing and fun. When we can’t be bothered, we stick to the miso-glazed style, with rice and a side salad, which is our favorite.
  • It means our week will always start off A) consistent (Salmon Monday very rarely gets canceled!) and B) wholesome. There are different ways to define that second word — for me, it means I feel good about what we ate, and the time we spent preparing it and enjoying it. I might not feel so great about my microwaved dinner three days later, after a long day spent juggling unexpected workweek fires, but at least I put myself in a position to succeed at the very start of it.
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How to Implement It Yourself

You may hate salmon, or the concept of cooking anything on Mondays. That’s perfectly fine. The overarching point is the importance of sanctifying just one home-cooked dinner a week. Try to make it a healthy one, too.

How will you know if it’s healthy, what with the ever-shifting definition of nutrition these days?

Well, for one, home-cooked meals are inherently healthier than takeout or pre-packaged fare. Assuming you’re gathering fresh ingredients and following a recipe, you’re already in the win column. From there, just aim for lean protein, good fats, greens, a whole-grain carbohydrate. Here’s a helpful piece on some healthy culinary building blocks. A great rule of thumb: if you look down at your plate and it’s various shades of brown, time to level up. Eat colorfully.

Finally, depending on your household (single, married, no kids, six of ’em), you’ll know best what night of the week this could possibly work (perhaps a weekend night has a better shot of flourishing), and what sort of food you can/can’t serve, or afford. Just try to think positively: fresh ingredients are cheaper than people like to pretend, and assuming you’ve built out your spice rack over the years (and have a good blender), a dinner tradition need not be intimidating. I think you’ll find, as I have, that the simple ritual makes for the loveliest night of the week.

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