Health Benefits of Cooking at Home

When life is busy (and when isn't it?) the allure of meals away from home can be strong. You may not even have time to sit down at the table to eat, let alone prepare the food and come up with a fresh meal plan from day to day. More and more studies are coming out, however, that point to the benefits of eating at home. If you are trying to get your body into better shape or lose weight, it's almost imperative that you cook your meals at home, and here's why.

Main Ingredient to a Healthier Diet

A study published in November 2014, in Public Health Nutrition paints a clear picture. When people cooked meals at home, they ingested fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat. This was true even if they weren't concerned with eating healthier. Those that ate meals at home six to seven nights per week also consumed fewer calories overall, leading to a much healthier diet.

One of the major reasons they ate better was that preparing meals at home led to a better balance in their diet. Also, those who ate out also engaged in calorie-stuffing.  Eating just because the food tastes good is a major unhealthy eating habit that eating away from home encourages.

Challenges of Eating at Home

Of course, one of the major challenges of eating meals at home is time. Time involved not only to shop for the raw materials, but also to prepare and serve them. 

Meal-planning programs such as Meal Plan Magic can make a huge difference for people trying to eat healthier on a consistent basis. It can help you prepare shopping lists, so your time spent in the grocery store and in the kitchen is put to more effective use, making it easier to put together a fresh meal plan at home.

Meal plans can be tailored to the number of people in the household, and also for allergies or specific diet needs. It's an important tool for those trying to eat better and stay away from the pitfalls that can take us off track.

Problems with Eating Out

The signs are everywhere, literally: restaurants far and wide have “gotten the memo” that consumers want to know the calorie count of the foods they eat. 

This is why you're more likely than ever to see calorie counts on fast-food menu sign boards and menus in elegant restaurants alike.

But what these restaurants often don't disclose is the salt content. And for people who must watch their salt intake, this omission points to another reason it pays to heed the health benefits of cooking at home—and with a fresh meal plan that forgoes salt in favor of herbs, spices and other seasonings.

The Hazards Posed by Salt

While our bodies need a small amount of salt to function properly, too much salt can increase blood pressure—a condition that can lead to heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is why the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that generally healthy adults limit their daily salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, while those with diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease should be even more vigilant and curb their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams.

Many Americans exceed these guidelines, and the CDC pinpoints the source: “Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants.”

Cook Up a Solution

While passing up the salt shaker is an obvious remedy, health advice from the Mayo Clinic makes it abundantly clear that the only way to truly control your salt intake is to create a fresh meal plan at home. Consider its suggestions:

  • Eat more fresh foods (which is not always an option at restaurants).
  • Remove salt from recipes (a move you cannot make once a restaurant cook has included it).
  • Use fresh or dried herbs and spices (it might generate stares if you ask for a jar of marjoram at a restaurant).

Learning how to substitute herbs and spices for salt takes time and practice, and you can add to the fun of it all with Meal Plan Magic. This fresh meal planning tool can help you determine your nutrition goals so that you can create delicious meals that will help you rediscover the healthy benefits of cooking at home – and without need for a salt shaker.

The Stats

It’s no secret that we are a fat nation. According to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Survey, “More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese,” while the Journal of American Medicine’s survey found that “More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.”

Besides a lack of commitment to the age old responsibilities of cutting our portions and exercising, some of the biggest things that are making us fat are chemicals. They’re in virtually all processed foods, disguised as flavorings, preservatives and “additives.”

They’re so prevalent that some scientists have taken to calling them obesogens. These are chemicals that are destroying our bodies. Things with names like Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Triflumizole are actually causing our bodies to store fat.

Three Things You Can Do

Three of the absolute best things that you can do for yourself to cut out those nefarious chemicals and get yourself on the right track is to quit eating takeout, ditch the processed, pre-packaged food, and make your own meals at home on the regular. You’ll not only be eating better quality food with a fresh meal plan, but you’ll also be saying "adios" to those additives that are silently wrecking your body.

Many people don’t think that buying healthy food is budget-friendly; however implementing a fresh meal plan is cheaper than you may think—and changing your eating habits will be much less expensive than the future health care costs you’ll have from eating things that aren’t good for you.

It will, however, take some time to get familiar with the logistics of planning, purchasing and preparing your meals according to healthy living guidelines. But most people who have made the switch to eating cleaner foods will absolutely tell you that your health is worth it. All it takes to implement a healthy, fresh meal plan is to do a little bit of research to find the best ways to maximize the benefits of foods you already know you love and to add some new things into the mix.