Between the lack of time in the work day and the convenience of ordering prepared foods, some families may find that cooking at home is a challenge. With the ease of picking up or delivery of these foods on a regular basis, health can be affected negatively. Although some restaurants may provide healthier choices more than likely these items are not chosen. Cooking and eating at home provides the opportunity for healthier eating.
You control the ingredients in your meals
Preparing meals at home with whole foods can reduce excess nutrients such as sodium and saturated fat found in both restaurant and processed foods. Some processed foods that contain sodium are canned, lunch meats, breads, frozen dinners, cheeses, and so much more. Cooking with less sodium may look like using fresh herbs and spices, fresh fruits and veggies, as well as foods that are minimally processed.
Excess sodium can lead to hypertension and heart disease. The amount of sodium you consume should be no more than 2300 mg per day which equals one teaspoon of salt.1 The intake of saturated fat should be 7% or less of the total calories you consume.1
When cooking at home, you not only control the ingredients in the meal, but you control the portion size on the plate. With smaller portions you eat less calories which may help with weight maintenance.
Cooking at home with a goal of healthier eating will benefit from meal planning. There are many methods and resources online to help with how to do this. ChooseMyPlate.gov has a printable weekly meal plan to use before planning out the grocery list. Research has found that those who plan meals are more likely to eat healthier and eat within the recommended dietary guidelines.2 It also found lower odds of obesity with meal planning.2
Cooking at home allows the family members the opportunity to contribute fun and creative ideas for meals. Trying new recipes may also help to broaden the variety of whole foods consumed. Time is an important factor for many families, so prepping meals for the week or cooking enough for leftovers can save time in the kitchen.
- https://www.heart.org/en. Accessed 10/15/2020.
- Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):12. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7.
Contributed by Alisa Boderick