A commitment to cooking at home can be hard. And a commitment to doing so healthily and sustainably is even harder—but totally worth it, says Boulder chef Bradford Heap, whose own experience is a testament to the power of eating well. A few years ago, arthritis-related pain inspired him to do some nutrition research, and his findings nudged him toward a more plant-based diet.

“I feel so much better since I started eating like this,” Heap says, while taking time out from his New Zealand vacation to talk to Live Naturally. “I can run four miles now, and I could never run before. I’m 57, and I’m about to go hop on a surfboard. I don’t want to go into my old age with a whimper. I want to go with a big brawl and a couple of right hooks.”

Heap’s culinary journey has followed a similar trajectory, from classical training at the Culinary Institute of America to learning from top chefs in France to now running two Boulder restaurants—Wild Standard and SALT—known for their fresh, healthy and eco-friendly ingredients. Here, Heap offers tips to help you cook nutritiously and sustainably over the long haul.

Go veggie, but spice it up

“You can really do a lot for yourself and the planet by going vegetable-centric, where you bring the vegetable to the center of the plate and use animal protein more as a garnish. My new secret ingredients for veggies are North African and Middle Eastern spices—ras el hanout, za’atar, vadouvan. They enliven and awaken the vegetable. Stock your pantry with them, and play around. Don’t be
afraid to make mistakes.”

Buy frozen fish

“Especially wild Alaskan salmon. The thing about sockeye is that it’s a very short season, and it’s super-abundant and super-healthy, so they tend to catch it and then process and freeze it right away. The salmon that lays around on the deck and then three weeks later gets to your table, that’s not fresher than salmon that was frozen. Also try oysters and mussels—they’re super-sustainable and really easy to cook.”

Adhere to mise en place

“Getting everything set up will make you a much more successful cook. This includes making a weekly plan and going to the market once to buy what you need for that week. That will get you excited for you what you want to try out. Also, in the case of garlic, prepping it beforehand makes it more nutritious. Smashing garlic 10 minutes before you cook it allows it to create the cancer-fighting compound allicin.”

Clean as you go

“This is super key, because cooking is hard, and it makes it so much harder if you eat and then you have this big pile of dishes. Who wants to do that? Nobody. So you just have to take responsibility to clean as you go. This one small thing can keep you from avoiding cooking.”

Try this delicious chickpea hummus recipe from Bradford Heap.