Those warm, traditional, home cooked meals that have been romanticized by the media are – unfortunately – a dying art. Scenes of the entire family gathered around a warm meal, made from fresh ingredients have largely been relegated to the realm of fiction. In large part, people just don’t have time to cook anymore. For many, time is also a powerful barrier to home cooking.
But the value of these meals goes much further than nostalgia – they could have a large influence on the health of you and your family. The full impact of home cooking – and it’s increasing rarity – was highlighted by a new paper, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
The Value of Home Cooking
For the paper, entitled “Is Cooking At Home Associated With Better Diet Quality or Weight-loss Intention?” three years worth of dietary data from 9,000 people was processed. The survey asked questions about what the participants ate, their fast-food intake and their use of frozen or prepared meals. Based on this information, the subjects’ caloric intake was estimated, including their macronutrient profiles.
On average, the group of subjects that rarely cooked at home – once or less per week – ate more total calories than those that cooked more often. The “home cooking” group also ate less sugar and fat than their counterparts.
It’s also interesting to note that the subjects who cooked more often were more likely to make better choices in the ingredients they used, relying more on fresh foods. This group also tended to make better decisions on the rare occasions that they did eat out.
Of course, the obvious lesson from this study is this: Home cooking is healthier than eating out. This likely isn’t a revelation for most people.
What is fairly surprising, though, is the way that home cooking can change your overall dietary habits. In essence, you can train both yourself and your family to eat better even when you are not in a situation to eat a homemade meal.
There’s also the factor of additives that was not included in the study, but still worth mentioning. Prepared foods, whether they are packaged or purchased at a restaurant, often have preservatives, sweeteners and other artificial ingredients that you may want to avoid. Many of those additives are still fairly controversial so it will be up to you to decide what you want to try to avoid or exclude.
What If You Can’t
But, honestly, it may just be unrealistic for you to try to cook as much as six nights a weeks. So, what can you do?
Learn how to read nutrition labels and understand what goes into the foods you get at restaurants that you frequent. This type of education will at least help you, and your family, to be well-educated when faced with a confusing assortment of food choices.
Some people who work busy schedules even dedicate an entire night to preparing all of their food for the week. While this technique does involved a fairly large investment of time, it will save you time and money throughout the week – while providing you will healthier food options.