I grew up in a time when eating out was considered a special treat. I bet if you’re over 30, you did too. My family went out for Mexican food, our favorite, about once a month. My sister and I were even allowed to order a soda! Woo hoo!
Nowadays, Americans eat out a whopping average of 4-5 times per week! The proliferation of fast food restaurants and mid-priced chain restaurants, along with more two-income families, made that number possible.
The decline in cooking at home and the rise in eating out correspond to the rise in overweight and obesity in the U.S. Research has shown that eating at restaurants is associated with higher BMI and weight gain. A restaurant meal is more likely to be higher in unhealthy fats, sugar, sodium, and calories than a home-cooked meal, plus restaurant portions are likely to be significantly larger than home-cooked meals.
I tell my patients that cooking at home is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. It doesn’t even matter what you cook – it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet and smaller portions without giving it a thought. Think about it – are you really going to eat French fries that often if you cook at home? No! Are you going to eat four cups of pasta on a giant restaurant-size plate? Probably not.
For those that claim “I don’t have time to cook,” I urge you to rephrase that to “Cooking is not a priority.” We find the time for activities we value, like surfing the internet or watching TV. The problem is we don’t value cooking enough.
For those that claim “I can’t cook,” I say “Yes you can.” Don’t be turned off by watching fancy chefs on Food TV. Cooking can be easy and like anything else, you get better with practice. Tag recipes that catch your eye in cookbooks and websites and follow the instructions! My current favorite sources are RealSimple.com and EatingWell.com. I pick quick recipes so I’m not in the kitchen for more than 30 minutes. I use ZipList.com to help me organize my recipes, plan my meals, and create grocery lists. I plan 4-5 meals a week to leave wiggle room for a meal out or leftovers. Sometimes, I also use Sundays to prep for the week.
Make cooking at home a priority and I bet you’ll see your health improve. Schedule a consult with one of Nova’s dietitians to help you make cooking and healthy eating a part of your life.
-Posted by Nicole Holovach, RD