Minimalist Nutrition: 5 Essential Tools for Better Health and Performance
Written by Daniel Cortez on December 3, 2018
I’m a minimalist at heart. For many years, I’ve also been into finding the best quality gear and products. I started with travel stuff. Many years ago, for example, I figured out that I wanted to carry most of my belongings on a daily basis in one bag. A few days of research later, I bought an Outdoor Research completely waterproof backpack and I’ve never looked back. I quickly expanded to doing the same with my luggage and electronics and have never stopped.
However, there was one area where I initially struggled with embracing a minimalist lifestyle: the kitchen. Maybe it was because I had been obsessed with food since I was a toddler, dreaming of one day opening one of the truly great pizzerias in the world. (Yes, the guy who now eats, moves, and generally behaves like a caveman wanted to run a pizzeria. The irony is not lost on me.) Maybe it was because there are tons of cool kitchen tools to buy. Hard to say exactly.
I kept doing this for pretty much everything I own and now that I think about it, I’ll probably end up writing about all my experiments with gear, traveling, and minimalism. Hell, I could probably just coach that and forget my obsession with nutrition, sleep, training, psychedelic plant medicine, evolutionary biology, and the list goes on and on. Probably would make my life a lot simpler.
My kitchen was full of crap and I rarely used most of the stuff in it. You can expand beyond this list, but I have found these to be the essentials.
1. The Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is from Ottawa, Canada, making it 1 of 2 awesome things about Ottawa (the other is that it has a really long canal which freezes over in the winter so there’s that).
Just like the hoverboard from “Back to the Future”, the Instant Pot is incredible.
At its core, it is a multi-purpose electric pressure cooker. The instant pots range from 3-8 Quarts in volume and from 6 to 10 (the “Ultra” Model) functions that allow you to saute, pressure cook, make yogurt, cook a whole chicken, make stew, perfect bone broth, cook rice, and 2 other functions I can’t remember. I recommend getting one that’s at least 6 quarts because it makes it easy to make several days worth of healthy meals at once. If you have a partner or family, get the 8 quart one. You’ll thank me later.
There’s only one downside. When the Zombie Apocalypse inevitably occurs and the electrical grid is down, you may regret the golden shrine that you built worshipping the Instant Pot. Also, you will wish you spent more time learning to make a fire. Life is about choices though.
The Vitamix is not as amazing as the Instant Pot, because what is? Well, I suppose hoverboards are. And there’s this:
Unfortunately, like hoverboards, that last video is not real.
I bet your first thought is –“isn’t the Vitamix just an expensive blender?” “Can I buy a cheap blender instead?” No sir, it is not.
The Vitamix is so powerful you can make piping hot soup in less than 10 minutes, nut butters, flour and dough, non-dairy milks such as coconut milk, and even baby food if you have children (or if for some odd reason you eat baby food but are an adult). Plus for smoothies it is the best in the world. Margaritas are bad ass too, so I hear.
Between the Instant Pot and the Vitamix, you can save yourself a ton of money by making many products you would get at the store. I’ve made my own yogurt, nut butter, coconut milk, soup, smoothies, and more and I’ve saved a ton of money and gotten higher quality products out of it as a result. For example, here’s a recipe I use regularly for Butternut Squash Soup in the Vitamix: https://elanaspantry.com/butternut-squash-soup/
There’s only one downside. (See above note on the Zombie Apocalypse)
3. Chef’s Knife
The best pieces of cooking technology can make your life way easier. But, no matter what cool tools you have, you still need a good knife. You need a versatile “Chef’s Knife” and I agree with “America’s Test Kitchen” (a national treasure btw), that you should start with one, solid 8-inch Chef’s Knife.
Here’s the one that America’s Test Kitchen, a company devoted to providing independent expert testing and reviews of products and recipes, chose back in 2015 as it’s best under $50: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000638D32?ie=UTF8&tag=jpin
That’s a good place to start. Here’s a really good breakdown from America’s Test Kitchen of the characteristics that a good Chef’s Knife should have: https://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment_reviews/1433-chefs-knives
You can do any basic chopping and slicing that you could possibly require with a good 8-inch Chef’s Knife. Plus, if you have the Instant Pot and/or Vitamix, all you have to do is a little chopping and the rest of the cooking is done by a futuristic machine likely created by the Illuminati.
Downside: It’s not futuristic and cool and it requires grunt work. Also, you need to sharpen your knives, Also, will not be big enough or strong enough to double as a weapon when the zombies come for us. Here’s a good instructional video if you’re interested in learning some basic knife skills:
4. Cast Iron Skillet
Ever need to come home and cook some protein for dinner to stabilize blood sugar and keep up your fat loss goals? Want to saute a chicken breast, make a burger, or scramble some eggs for a quick and easy meal? Need to find something heavy to use as a weapon if someone is breaking into your house? Cast Iron skillet to the rescue.
I recommend this one by Le Creuset if you want something fancier:
But if you want something more basic that also works great, try this one:
Here’s a good little recipe video from Lodge on how to fry an egg properly in a cast iron skillet:
Pro Tip: Take good care of your cast iron skillet and when you wash it, don’t use soap. Warm water and a brush should get all the crud off of the skillet but soap will only damage the cast iron.
5. Bamboo or Wooden Cutting Board
This feels anticlimactic. I was thinking about listing “Electric Can Opener” at No. 5 because I figured that would be a good way to see if people were actually reading this article. WHO NEEDS AN ELECTRIC CAN OPENER? No one. The only person I can remember having one in my family was my aunt. She is a wonderful lady but has spent very little of her life in a kitchen, which completely explains the can opener.
You got your chef’s knife right? Now you need something to chop it on. You can’t use your hands. That doesn’t end well. I have a bamboo one similar to this one:
The reason you should opt for bamboo/wood over plastic is because getting rid of plastic and other endocrine disruptors (i.e. bad stuff that potentially messes with your hormones) is a really great idea. Secondly, the bamboo/wood seems to harbor less bacteria and is most definitely better for your knives in the long run.
I’m a minimalist who cooks most of my own food and I make food in a lot of different situations. For instance, I will make a week’s worth of bone broth and yogurt all at once. When I have friends over for dinner or cook for my girlfriend, these are the only 5 tools I use. Occasionally, I’ll use a few other minor items like a vegetable peeler, a colander, etc. With these 5 tools, I can create healthy meals, snacks, smoothies, and desserts with just about any ingredients I have around and I can do so quickly and easily.
Being healthy for the rest of your life requires crafting an environment which is conducive to your health. One way you can do that is to have tools in the kitchen that make healthy cooking easy. Grab these 5 and you will be set to conquer your health and performance goals.