Obesity and diabetes have both become worldwide health issues for a multitude of reasons and the "collapse of home cooking" is one of the primary reasons why.
Because life and schedules are crazy, hectic in most households these days, diet (our intake of important nutrients) is usually the first thing that suffers. This eventually puts our body in a nutrient poor environment that, if not addressed, leads to ill health.
According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, the amount of money spent by those in the Western world eating out has now, for the first time ever, surpassed what consumers spend on food at home.
And, with so many prepared foods and fancy packages strategically placed to tempt us when we grocery shop, eating has become "eye candy" and a convenience habit rather than a healthy lifestyle habit.
The sad truth is, home cooking has given way to convenience foods with devastating results - a spike in obesity, diabetes and other diet related diseases. It may be adding to our convenience meter timewise, but these "convenient foods" are subtracting from our health meter and playing havoc with our healthy lifestyles!
Although we believe we are helping ourselves by adding to our available time, what's the use of having more time on our hands if our health suffers and we're miserable? It's time to take a stand against this onslaught of health damage.
The best and easiest way to avoid falling prey to nutritionally dead fast-foods and other conveniently prepared foods that your local supermarket tempts you with is to learn to create your own delicious snacks and meals right in the comfort and cleanliness of your own kitchen.
We place our health at the mercy of others whenever we eat outside of our own kitchen because we cannot control what has gone into the preparation of the food before we ordered it.
Of course, enjoying the company of others while eating out on occasion is perfectly fine and acceptable. What we're talking about here is a diet primarily fixed on processed, unhealthy sugars and fats, and toxic laden foods - one that offers relatively little, if any, nutrient dense, fresh, whole food choices.
It's time we take a proactive role in our own future health and wellbeing by returning to the kitchen and taking charge of what nutrients our bodies receive and what additives go in our food before we eat it. Increasing our intake of whole fresh ingredients not only helps us to become healthier and leaner, but our energy levels get a real lift as well.
This is a family affair. If we want to experience a reborn culture of home cooking, it needs to be a lifestyle change, not an occasional occurrence and that requires everyone in the family (or household) to be knowledgeable and involved.
Here's the primary benefits of enjoying homemade meals:
Healthier ingredients – Eating home cooked meals allows us to pick the best, freshest, nutrient dense ingredients we can get our hands on. We'll know exactly what went in and the amount that went in of anything added. No second guessing. Much easier to control our weight when we prepare our own meals at home as well.
Saves money – When we eat at a restaurant, we are not only paying for the food we are served, we are paying to keep that restaurant open, staffed and running. That eats up much more money than purchasing our ingredients and putting them together in an exciting new recipe right in the comfort of our home kitchen! Even eating fast-food consistently (that returns little if any nourishment) not only robs our body of nutrients, but empties our wallet as well with little to no return on investment.
Portion control – Portion control is a lot more important to pay attention to than most people want to admit. For the most part, our modern portions well exceed what we need to be eating to be healthy. We cannot control what size portion is served when outside of our own kitchen. This excess temptation contributes to our health/weight crisis (some eat this excess food to avoid feeling guilty about leaving it on the plate)!
Focused family time – Mealtime is a great time to share time with and enjoy our family and cooking at home takes that a step further by inviting all members of the family to participate in making it as well (some families even shop together). Just watch the joy on your child's face as they beam proudly when you serve them a snack or meal they personally participated in creating.
Like everything else, healthy eating begins with healthy, correct perceptions. Viewing food as the direct path towards building and maintaining health is what gets us focused on the ingredients we're buying and cooking with, and blind to the ease and tease of fancy packaging.
In other words, eating needs to be perceived as something we do to increase our health, boost our vitality and add to our longevity, not something we do to appease our senses, ease our emotions or fill our lonely soul-tank.
Whether it's snack, treats or full meals, when it comes to our health, home cooking will always trump convenience, prepared/packaged meals or ordered food.
And with the glut of healthy food recipes readily available on the Internet boredom doesn't have a chance! Discovering and playing with new food choices and simple or exotic new recipes has become an unending joy.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.