Healthy Eating Begins in Your Kitchen: Benefits of Home-Cooked Meals

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Importance of Cooking Your Own MealsCooking and eating are two of my favorite things to do. Most people love to eat, but they may let someone else do the work and cook for them. However, I believe eating healthy always begins with cooking your own meals.

I can completely relate with the average American. I never used to love cooking and generally avoided it. When I did cook, the ingredients were processed with additives and preservatives. I remember those busy days when I would barely find enough time to order a pizza or go through the drive-thru for a burger for my only meal of the day. I was an educated person, but I didn’t seem to comprehend the importance of proper nutrition and cooking my meals.

The sad thing is that I wasn’t alone.

Americans Prefer Takeout Over Cooking In

Many people live this way, depending on takeout windows and quick meals to fill their stomachs. In fact, 25% of Americans consume takeout or fast food at least once every day.

Also, according to a 2011 study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Americans don’t spend a lot of time cooking—or even eating for that matter. The study found that Americans only spend 30 minutes daily on meal preparation. That likely means the microwave or pizza deliveryman had something do with it. When it comes to time spent chewing, Americans only spend one hour and 14 minutes eating every day, which is not a lot of time to enjoy even one meal.

Don’t Have Time to Cook?

Cooking and eating should be treated with the same attention and prioritization you’d give a report or assignment at work. You put in a lot of effort and you get positive results. If you want to eat healthy and feel healthy, that same effort should be put forth in the kitchen. When you stop dialing takeout numbers and start chopping vegetables, your reward is a healthy body.

The first step in finding the time to cook is to be honest and acknowledge that you do have time. In fact, it probably takes less time than you think. Most healthy recipes only take 15 to 30 minutes. To prepare a smoothie in the morning or a salad at lunch, it takes just 10 minutes—if even that. But if you find some days are more hectic than others, preparing large batches and freezing or refrigerating meals ahead of time, on a less busy day, is always an option.

Why It’s Important to Cook Your Own Meals

Some people don’t understand why it is important to cook. For those of you doubting the benefits, here are some important reasons why you should spend quality time in your kitchen, preparing your food:

You’re Learning New Skills

Many people don’t know how to cook, or at least that’s what they tell me. Just because you don’t know something, does not mean you cannot learn to cook. There are also plenty of resources available to you. Healthy cookbooks can easily be obtained from your local library, or recipes are readily accessible online on blogs from health experts and advocates.

Does your partner, housemate, or another family member cook most of your meals at home? Share the cooking responsibilities and cook with them! This will help you learn what to do, while also spending quality time with someone you love. Plus, once you’ve learned how to cook, you can invite your children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews to help you out, allowing them to learn some valuable skills at a young age.

Tip: To keep you interested in learning, try at least one new dish each week.

You Know What You’re Eating

The quality of the food at home is likely better than what you are getting at restaurants. At home, you have the option to purchase organic produce, eggs, or meat, which can help you heal from degenerative diseases or conditions. That security does not come with fries and a large soda. Cooking your food allows you to control what is on your plate, the freshness, and what you feed your family. Plus, food allergies and sensitivities are easier to keep in check when you know what went into making what’s on your plate.

Tip: Be conscious of what you’re adding to your grocery basket, too; choose whole foods and only pick up packaged foods that contain easy-to-pronounce ingredients with minimal salt and sugar content.

You Boost Your Nutrition

A home-cooked meal also contains plenty more nutrients than the average takeout meal. The foods and ingredients you use to create a meal matter big time. The purpose of eating is not to get full; it is to nourish and heal the body. I stock up on all the nutritious and healing foods for cooking delicious and healthy meals. Some of my favorite nutrient-dense foods I always have on hand include avocados, spinach, organic eggs, quinoa, brown rice protein powder, and extra virgin olive oil. I get other healthy foods, such as meat or chicken, from a local farmer.

Tip: To keep yourself feeling full for longer, boost your protein intake and aim to include at least one nutrient-dense food in every meal.

Added Bonus: You Save Money!

You may not realize it, but all those fast food receipts and delivery tips add up! By making your meals at home—or at least the large majority of them—you will save a lot of money. I saved nearly $50.00 weekly once I began making every meal at home.

Final Tip: Be Prepared to Cook at Home

You know that cooking your meals is important, but how do you prepare? What do you need?

Some essentials include spices and cooking tools and utensils. My spice rack is always full of thyme, basil, oregano, rock salt, and other herbs and spices. My top tools for cooking include a food processor, blender, vegetable steamer, and ceramic pots and pans, including a large soup pot. (To cut down on dishes, it’s a bonus if you purchase pots and pans that are also oven-safe!)

Sources for Today’s Article:
Barlow, T., “Americans Cook the Least, Eat the Fastest,” Forbes, April 15, 2011; http://www.forbes.com/sites/tombarlow/2011/04/15/americans-cook-the-least-eat-the-fastest/, last accessed January 27, 2015.
Quigley, D., “8 Benefits of Home Cooking,” Care2.com, November 17, 2010; http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-reasons-to-prepare-home-cooked-meals.html, last accessed January 27, 2015.




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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »