Social eating has become a staple trend in our Western society. No longer do we choose to hang out with friends without having a foray into the eating meals prepared by others. We go out to eat at both fast food and lavish restaurants, order take out or to-go, snack on hot dogs and popcorn at movie theaters and chew on wings and fries at sports bars during the game. Eating has become a tributary to socializing, a sidekick of sorts. Contrary to the popularity of our nutritional entertainment, there is commonly held that people who cook at home tend to consume fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less, or choose not to prepare food for themselves at all. In short, you can enjoy home cooking health benefits all the time, with home-cooked meals more than anything else, and with potluck parties and dinner parties as more trustworthy sidekicks than grumpy 20-something servers, you and you friends can be healthy together!
A few of the benefits of taking responsibility for the food you prepare and choose to consume include:
Restaurants, both fast food and otherwise, are known to be notoriously high in calories sugars, fats, sodium and carbohydrates, and it is also likely that many, even the highest end establishments may contain low nutritional content. Even the healthier looking options can contain a very high level of sugars and fats. Eating at home, on the other hand, allows you to cut out what you may deem unnecessary in your diet. You assume control of the food you cook and the food you consume.
Increased Knowledge of Your Food
Food is much more than just something that tastes good and fills up your stomach. What you eat can heal, cause sickness, or even inflict pain. Cooking your own meals can teach you what foods are high or low in certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. You may also discover which foods work best for you and your body and the consequences if you make choices that are not as optimal. Cooking your own meals will even boost your creativity as you learn to combine nutritious foods to satisfy your palate!
Mastering the Art of Savoring
The physical act of preparing your own meals will lead to a newfound appreciation for the food you consume. This is very important since mindless munching and emotional eating can contribute to unhealthy symptoms and unwanted weight gain due to the fact you are not fully conscious, present to or mindful of the foods you may be eating. Being more aware of what you consume when you prepare it will make you less likely to overeat.
Understanding Appropriate Portions for You
Restaurants are notorious for their extreme portion sizes, which may contribute to the vast overeating culture and obesity issue we are facing in our society. In fact, a study conducted by the International Journal of Obesity found that providing nutrition labels on standard menus had little effect on food selection. Preparing meals at home gives you the ability to determine your individual nutrition needs and exercise the appropriate portion control for you. Furthermore, plating your own meal will help curb the temptation of overeating.
Building Healthy Habits
Cooking at home can jump-start your healthy lifestyle! By discovering healthy recipes, learning about food, creating and sticking to a meal plan, you and your family can be inspired to living a healthy, fit life.
Family dynamics can greatly improve with more at home, family meal times. Children greatly benefit from the ritual of preparing and eating meals together. This is also a great teaching tool for parents who want to instill healthy eating habits in their children. Several studies conducted by the University of Michigan found eating family meals at the dinner table is associated with fewer psychological issues and higher academic success in children and promoted sociability in the family.
According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses (commonly referred as food poisoning) affects 1 in 6 Americans every year. Cooking at home will give you the peace of mind you need in knowing you have the freshest ingredients (or at least since your last trip to the supermarket or farmer's market) and they have been washed and prepared correctly. You can rest easy knowing your food has been stored and cooked at the correct temperatures and there has been no cross-contamination.
Awareness Of Allergies and Sensitivities
although I have discussed how cooking your own food gives you control the nutritional intake of your meals, cooking for yourself and your family also gives you the extra control to avoid food allergens. Common food allergies include nuts, gluten, dairy and shellfish, and all of these are common and usually well-liked ingredients in many meals.
Cooking at home can give you the clean conscience of not only knowing what’s in your food, but how hygienically your food is prepared. Naturally, you will want to ensure your kitchen and dinnerware are sterile and your ingredients are prepared thoroughly before eating.
Eating dinner out is expensive! It is a lot more cost-effective to purchase groceries than ordering take out every night. While there is much controversy as to whether or not an individual meal is cheaper made cooking in-home than eating out, with nutritional intake and serving size accounted for, you will save a lot more money by eating in! This money-saving strategy will improve your finances and cut down on your stress levels.
As an added bonus, if you make extras, the leftovers make great lunches for work or school. The nourishment and cost savings are paid forward
Bottom line – no need to cook every meal at home all the time, especially if it is not part of your routine. Start slowly, once or twice more than usual. Once you get into the routine, discover your favorite recipes, maybe try a new ingredient or cooking method, you will come to truly appreciate the pleasure derived from nourishing yourself and those around you.