As the end of my first year of university comes up, I can't wait to be back in a kitchen making all the food I want. Unfortunately, this isn't a common view among many of my peers, who aren't excited for actually having to feed themselves, nor the dishes that come along with it. Since I was a kid, I was taught the importance of cooking. However, looking around at my friends on campus, who would rather survive on Kraft Dinner and Mr. Noodles for the rest of their lives, I don't think everyone agrees that learning to cook as a kid is important.

For as long as I can remember, I was always included in the kitchen. Alongside my parents and my Nanny, I helped with everything from Schnitzel and Palasinta, to Homemade Pizza and Omelettes. I was always eager to be in the kitchen, sporting my own sauce-stained apron. Unfortunately, many kids aren't getting this opportunity to learn the tricks of the kitchen at a young age, and it affects their eating habits and food choices as they grow older. 

At university, meal times are no longer regulated, unhealthy options are copious, and it seems easier to go for pizza every night. I didn't consider all the benefits I had reaped from learning how to cook as a kid, and what being in the kitchen had taught me until I was constantly surrounded by kids making awful food choices. 

1. Cooking Keeps You Green

I didn't notice the lack of vegetables and fruits in my diet until after the first few weeks of eating in a dining hall. Fresh foods are expensive, so they're not always readily available for students on a meal plan. When you cook in the kitchen, you realize how many fresh foods you should be consuming on a daily basis, and in preparing your own food, you can keep track of it. Growing up cooking fresh foods, I got used to purchasing and consuming tons of fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, and learned to keep buying them as I got older.

2. It Teaches You What Just Looks Good, and What's Actually Good For You

A common mistake that people make when buying food is to choose what they think is good for them. There are unhealthy ingredients in food that are hard to spot, and it's easy to make a poor diet balance when you shop like this. When you grow up learning which ingredients are really healthy, it makes it easier to keep up a healthy diet when you're on your own.

3. It Teaches You How To Get Creative

It's easy to get bored of your food when all you do is eat the same thing. I immediately learned this in residence. Even though I thought I would never be tired of cheese pizza, it could actually happen. This makes me look forward to getting creative in the kitchen next year. Learning to cook as a kid also helps you to learn how to spice up your favourite dishes as you grow older. I can make pizza a hundred ways and not get tired of it!  

4. It Taught Me That Less Is More

One of the first things that my Nanny taught me when I was learning to cook as a kid was that sometimes, less is more. She makes the best potatoes every year at Christmas, and to everyone's surprise, only seasons them with salt and pepper. Through her, I've learned that it's better to hold back on the crazy ideas and just keep it simple. When you learn all the tricks of the kitchen at a young age, you can experiment with your cooking styles, and learn which dishes are better to hold back on. Your taste buds will thank you.  

5. It Shows You the Value of Family Cooking Time

The greatest thing cooking ever taught me was that it could bring a family together. In this day and age, we are always on the go. Sometimes its easier to just grab some takeout and scarf it down quickly before practice or your next meeting. Unfortunately, not every kid gets to grow up in a house where food prep time is really family time. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where we fought about who was peeling the potatoes and who got to lick the spoon.

Every holiday, it's a tradition that my whole family crams into our tiny kitchens and cooks together, eventually getting kicked out by my nanny because she still doesn't trust us to make the sauce without burning it. I've learned that even if you're just sharing a bowl of cereal, family time in the kitchen is sometimes rare and so valuable. 

I'm counting the days until I'm back in a real kitchen, making all the food I want. Learning to cook as a kid gave me a lot of skills that I still use today. Even though real cooking comes with dishes and a grocery budget, I still can't wait. For now? I'm going to enjoy the last few months of dining hall food and dream of all the dishes I'm going to make next year.