In a time where convenience foods and packaged snacks have overtaken much of the grocery store, and everyone seems to be leading a busy lifestyle, there is significantly less time being spent cooking at home. But, there are significant benefits in reducing your eating out and cooking at home more. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider carving out more time to be in your home kitchen preparing meals.

You have more control over what you’re eating.

Although grabbing a bite to eat between meetings allows for a quick and convenient decision, it also comes with some important considerations for your health. Convenience foods tend to be higher in calories and additives that you may not necessarily want to be eating. They also tend to be lacking in important nutrients like fiber, when compared to home-cooked meals. On the other hand, when you prepare food at home you get to decide exactly what ingredients are being used.

You’re more likely to make healthy choices.

Studies show that people who cook at home most nights of the week consume fewer calories than people who eat outside of the home on a regular basis.1 Furthermore, cooking at home is a more consistent way to incorporate a wide variety of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Home cooked meals are typically prepared using healthier methods than what you might find at fast food chains and restaurants, using less oil, fat, salt, and sugar.

It saves you more money in the long run.

Stopping at the drive-thru on the way home seems like a cheap way to eat in the moment, but expenses can add up quickly. You can save more money over time by meal planning and budgeting for groceries that will make multiple servings.2 Not to mention, investing a little more money and time in your health by prioritizing cooking at home can save money in the long run by preventing potential medical costs as you get older.

It brings more feelings of joy and accomplishment.

There’s something to be said about the positive feelings around home-cooked meals that just doesn’t come from eating fast food or restaurant meals. Following a recipe from start to finish, and seeing the delicious end result of your kitchen labors, provides a unique sense of accomplishment. If you’re cooking for friends or family, you also get to enjoy a sense of pride that comes with sharing the art of home cooking and hospitality with others. Research actually shows that enjoying meals at home with others increases happiness.3

It encourages the learning and maintenance of important basic cooking skills.

You don’t need to have an arsenal of memorized family recipes under your belt to be successful at home cooking. What’s more helpful is mastering some basic cooking skills that can serve you throughout life, like knife handling, making simple soups and salads, working with different proteins, and a few cooking methods like sauteing, baking, and steaming. These skills can be applied to a number of different recipes and foods.

Cooking at home offers many benefits to your health and your wallet. If you can think about some ways to spend more time in your kitchen, you can experience these benefits both in the short and long term.

Yours in Health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian

References

  1. Mills S, Brown H, Wrieden W, White M, Adams J. Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):109. Published 2017 Aug 17. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0567-y
  2. Garcia MT, Sato PM, Trude ACB, et al. Factors Associated with Home Meal Preparation and Fast-Food Sources Use among Low-Income Urban African American Adults. Ecol Food Nutr. 2018;57(1):13–31. doi:10.1080/03670244.2017.1406853
  3. Yiengprugsawan V, Banwell C, Takeda W, Dixon J, Seubsman SA, Sleigh AC. Health, happiness and eating together: what can a large Thai cohort study tell us?. Glob J Health Sci. 2015;7(4):270–277. Published 2015 Jan 14. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n4p270