The amount of money spent by the Western world eating out has, for the first time, surpassed spending on eating at home, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Convenience foods have taken the place of home cooking and the results have been disastrous – a spike in obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases. Obesity and diabetes are worldwide health issues for several reasons but the collapse of home cooking is one of the primary ones.
Our modern schedules place excessive demands on our time, so saving a bit of time by using convenience foods seems like a good choice. Unfortunately, we’ve traded time for a piece of our health. Sure, convenience foods may add a few minutes to a stressed schedule, but they play havoc with our health and our lifestyles.
It’s time to reverse this dangerous, unhealthy trend that robs us of our vitality. What good is more time if our health is suffering?
We need to monitor the nutrients our bodies receive and be in control of the additives that go into our foods before we consume them. This means taking a proactive role in our health and well-being by returning to their source – the kitchen.
The kitchen is the hub of most homes but its potential is being ignored. It’s time to implement and experience a reborn culture of home cooking through lifestyle changes, not an occasional whim to cook.
Doing it occasionally won’t work as it does not engage passion and repetition, two vital ingredients to making permanent change. Because this lifestyle change generally involves others, it needs to be a family affair, one that all members of the family or household get involved in and become knowledgeable about.
The primary benefits of home cooking
Healthier ingredients: Being in control of what goes into our home-cooked meals empowers us to get the biggest bang for our buck by choosing the best, freshest, nutrient-dense ingredients we can get our hands on.
Cooking at home is a healthy discipline that eliminates second-guessing about what’s in our food, making it easier to control our weight. Energy levels, weight control and self-confidence all get a nice boost when the right foods are consumed but take a health hit when we choose the wrong ones.
Easier on the budget: Eating out eats our budget. We not only pay for the food we are served but for the overheads to keep the restaurant staffed, running efficiently and open for business. The cost of these services far exceeds what we would pay at the grocery for healthier ingredients that allow us creative licence from the comfort of our kitchens.
Fast food not only costs an unreasonable amount of money but robs our bodies of needed nutrients (the reason we get hungry in the first place). It empties our wallets with little to no return on our investment except excessive calories. Our hunger pangs return quickly since we have not yet satisfied our bodies’ cries for nutrients. This causes overeating and other related weight issues.
Food impacts every facet of our lives. Protection against disease, energy levels, weight control and mental health are all on the winning end when we eat healthily.
Portion control: Portion sizes are out of control because we cannot dictate what is served when we go out. How many times have you been told to “finish the food on your plate”? When over-served, as often happens when we eat out, this guilt trip and excessive temptation contributes to our overall health and weight crisis.
If you are looking to cut down your portion size, bear in mind that a large plate makes portions seem small, so using a small plate can trick the brain a bit as it makes portions seem bigger.
Shared family time: This is the best benefit of all. Cooking together is a great way to share valued family time. Just watch the joy and pride explode on your children’s faces when they participate in making what they eat. Bring them shopping with you. It is the perfect time to educate them about the nutrient value of different foods and why we need them.
Sitting, rather than standing, putting our utensils down between bites and avoiding distractions such as cellphones, TVs and computers while eating, make us conscious eaters, with a focus on what we are eating. The taste and the texture become more prominent when our attention is on the moment, rather than zeroed in on a sitcom of someone else’s life.
Finally, shopping for the ingredients and preparing our own snacks and meals allows us to infuse the foods we consume with the most important ingredient of all – love.
According to chef Eric Frank Ripert, who specialises in modern French cuisine and is noted for his work with seafood, spiritual experiences in cooking are very important. “When food is prepared with love, the people who eat it can feel that. If you have in your life something cooked by someone in your family who put love in the food – you feel something, something, a sensation.”
Eating needs to be perceived as something we do to increase our health, boost our vitality and add to our longevity, not something to appease our senses, ease our emotions and fill our lonely soul tank with food. Viewing food as the direct path towards building and maintaining health is what gets us focused on the ingredients we are buying and cooking with and blind to the ease and tease of fancy packaging.
Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.