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ERSOY: Are home cooked meals better than eating out? (Part 1)

Around 37 percent of people in the United States eat fast food at least once a day. In today’s fast-paced world, the convenience of fast food and restaurants often competes with the benefits of home-cooked meals. While quickly grabbing a bite to eat from a fast-food place or ordering a takeout might save time, the advantages of preparing meals at home are substantial and supported by many studies.

Home-cooked meals generally offer superior nutritional quality compared to fast food. When cooking at home you have complete control over the ingredients and cooking methods, allowing for healthier choices. One study found that individuals who frequently cook meals at home consume fewer calories, sugar and fat than people who eat out regularly.

In addition, in home-cooked meals you know what you are putting into them and can incorporate a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, making sure you have a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients. Fast food, on the other hand, may taste good but is often high in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and sugars, which can contribute to various health issues. Research has shown that regular consumption of fast food is associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

Cooking at home might also be more cost-effective than dining out. Fully preparing meals from scratch can significantly reduce the cost of the food, as ingredients can be purchased in bulk and used for multiple meals. Studies have shown too that families who cook at home can save a substantial amount of money compared to those who frequently eat out.

You will be surprised that you can prepare delicious homemade meals at a very low cost, and make them healthier at the same time. And actually, without realizing it, fast food and restaurant meals often come with higher costs per serving leading to increased spending over time and definitely impacting your budgets.

Of course, the health benefits of home-cooked meals go beyond just the nutrition. For example, cooking at home allows for portion control and makes it easier to avoid overeating. Studies show that home-cooked meals are generally associated with healthier eating habits and better overall health outcomes, while the convenience and portion sizes of fast food can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Fast-food restaurants usually serve larger portions, and their meals are designed to be ultra palatable, making it easy to consume excessive calories in one sitting without realizing it, and at the same time making you want to come back again and again.

Home cooking also offers social and emotional benefits. Preparing and sharing meals with someone you care about can strengthen relationships and promote a sense of community.

Studies here have found that families who eat together at home tend to have better dietary habits and a stronger family unit. Eating out or getting a takeout, especially if you are alone, may not provide the same emotional satisfaction. Often you’ll find yourself not eating mindfully, it’s easy to get distracted and find yourself checking your phone.

So in summary, yes, getting fast food, a takeout, or eating in a restaurant can be much easier in many ways, yet in the long-term it will almost certainly not be beneficial for your health. Home cooking gives superior nutritional quality and cost effectiveness, along with significant health and emotional benefits too, and can additionally lead to healthier eating habits, better health outcomes and more meaningful social interactions.

This may sound easy to say, but what if you do not know how to cook or how to make good budget friendly food? I will explore that in part 2 of this series — so until then, if you can, do try to prep some home meals and enjoy them with family or friends.

References:

Wolfson, J. A., & Bleich, S. N. (2015). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition, 18(8), 1397-1406.

Rosenheck, R. (2008). Fast food consumption and increased caloric intake: a systematic review of a trajectory towards weight gain and obesity risk. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(2), 200-210.

Smith, L. P., Ng, S. W., & Popkin, B. M. (2013). Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(4), 395-404.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2018). Home cooking and eating habits: Global dietary database.

Fulkerson, J. A., Larson, N., Horning, M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2010). A review of associations between family or shared meal frequency and dietary and weight status outcomes across the lifespan. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 42(3), 213-219.

Fryar, C. D., Hughes, J. P., Herrick, K. A., & Ahluwalia, N. (2018). Fast food consumption among adults in the United States, 2013–2016. National Center for Health Statistics. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db322.pdf

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.); master trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro); registered yoga teacher; founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness; and founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.
Source: The Garden Island

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