3 Reasons Why You Should Cook All Your Meals

Danielle Omar
by Danielle Omar
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3 Reasons Why You Should Cook All Your Meals

You probably know that home-cooked meals are better for you than eating out, but do you know why? When it comes to weight loss, cooking is a winning strategy. After all, cooking at home ensures you know what is going into your food — salt, fat, sugar and all.

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A 2016 study by Seguin et al. found that a higher frequency of eating away from home was associated with a higher body mass index — not surprising! People who cook their own food are more likely to consume fewer calories. The results go beyond your own kitchen. Looking at dietary data from 9,000 participants age 20 and older, researchers at John Hopkins found that adults who cooked dinner 1–2 times per week ate more calories on average than those who cooked 6–7 times per week (2,301 versus 2,164 average daily calories, respectively). While this may not seem like much, a savings of about 137 calories daily adds up over time. This difference totals roughly 50,000 extra calories per year!

Instead of spending your food dollars eating out, invest in developing your kitchen skills. Still not convinced? Check out these three compelling reasons for why you should make your meals at home:

1. You’ll always know what you’re eating.
If you’re trying to lose weight, eating out can be a minefield of unwanted calories, fat, sugar and salt. You might go in with good intentions, but you never really know what goes into making the food that’s on your plate. Restaurant food is typically lower in nutrients and higher in fat, sugar and salt.

The same meal you order in a restaurant will have fewer calories and more nutrients if you make it yourself. Why? Many restaurants (especially fast-food and fast-casual types) optimize taste, not your health goals. They use cooking techniques to make food highly palatable, such as finishing a simple seared steak with excessive amounts of butter and marinating meats in oily, sugar-laden sauces.

Your favorite broccoli soup? It’s made with heavy cream with little effort to shave down excess calories. The chicken on your “healthy” salad is often processed, battered and fried before serving. Dressings and sauces are also loaded with sugar and salt. The end result is that you consume far more calories than if you had made that same meal yourself.

If you want to know where your food comes from, eating out makes it harder for you to access that information. By cooking your own meal, you can ensure that the ingredients you’re eating are fresh, locally sourced and sustainably farmed.

2. You reduce the temptation of eating large, high-calorie meals.
Round every restaurant corner, monster-size burgers and heaps of cheese-laden pastas call out your name, and it may be hard to resist. It makes sense that the more calories you eat, the fuller you feel and the sooner you stop eating, right? Sadly, this logic doesn’t apply to all foods. According to Ello-Martin et al., individuals who are presented with large portion sizes generally don’t respond to increased fullness, suggesting that hunger and satiety signals are being ignored or overridden. Eating out creates the perfect storm. You’re served highly palatable food in ridiculous portions, and you don’t feel like you want to stop eating.

Eating at home greatly reduces the temptation to make poor food decisions, especially if you set yourself up for success by having healthy ingredients on hand. You can make a soup creamy using white beans and skip the heavy cream. You can roast or bake in lieu of frying and easily avoid the added calories from high-fat sauces and dressings by making your own.

Cooking at home also keeps portions in check because you can control how much you eat. One simple way to train yourself to eat less is by serving your meal on a smaller plate. It will appear as though you’re eating more when you’re actually eating less (and not feeling deprived). Decrease the urge to finish off leftovers by cooking enough for only one serving. You can also slash your meal size in half by piling all the food you intend to eat on your plate at one time. Seeing all your food at once will help you judge whether you’re overdoing it, versus having each course being served on a different plate throughout the meal, as when dining out.

3. Cooking (and eating) together is a great bonding experience for your family.
If you grew up sharing stories and catching up with family around the dinner table, you understand the value of bonding over a good meal. For some families, dinner time may be the only shared experience in a day. Children benefit greatly from learning how to cook and prepare food at an early age. In my nutrition practice, I work with many men and women who were not taught this valuable skill as a child and now struggle with cooking as an adult.

We all know of a child who will only eat chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese. Getting your children involved in planning and cooking meals can go a long way in expanding their palates to include all different types of foods and preparations. Cooking is a skill that gets easier with practice, and most children enjoy food they have helped prepare. Eating at home is good for their health, too. Research shows children who regularly eat home-cooked meals take in more nutrients and are less likely to be overweight.

It’s important to note that where you eat as a family matters, too. If you eat at home but sit in front of a TV or computer screen, you might be missing out on the benefits.

If cooking all your meals at home sounds daunting, you’re not alone. The good news is that eating at home just a few times per week will improve your diet and health — and aid in weight loss.

So, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves, and start cooking!

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Whether it’s in the kitchen preparing a Blue Apron meal with a loved one or around the dinner table sharing Blue Apron with friends, we help home chefs rediscover themselves and the people that matter to them through home cooking. Let Blue Apron do the hard work for you. We deliver pre-portioned, farm-fresh ingredients and recipes to help you make healthy home-cooked meals, all between 500–700 calories. Click here to try your first two meals on us!

About the Author

Danielle Omar
Danielle Omar

Danielle is an integrative dietitian, culinary nutritionist, author and consultant, frequently lending her love of creating to high-profile food and nutrition media outlets. She’s a regularly featured blogger and founder of foodconfidence.comwhere she inspires men and women on their journey to become their healthiest self. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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17 responses to “3 Reasons Why You Should Cook All Your Meals”

  1. Avatar Johns Hopkins Student says:

    Hi, the university is called Johns Hopkins, not John Hopkins.

  2. Avatar theinsightfulone says:

    Wow, this is soooooooo insightful. Thank you for making me realise that if I cook, I’ll know what goes into my food. Just me READING this post has made me lose 40lbs!

  3. Avatar Dade Dyana says:

    Hi Danielle,
    I can’t agree more! Cooking for yourself is such a great way to know exactly what’s going in your body. And, you forgot a huge benefit of it – cost effectiveness! It’s so much cheaper than going out. Wouldn’t you agree that’s just as important as your benefits?

  4. Avatar Christine Lovely says:

    This article was insightful. I don’t think people really truly have any idea how much worse it is. For instance, at a diner they will put an entire tbs of butter right on top of your fried eggs. That turns a 200 calorie egg breakfast into a 300 calorie breakfast- and that doesn’t include all the nasty potatoes and breakfast meats you eat with it, that you probably wouldn’t eat at home. When I started my diet program, the skinny coach told me that if I was going to eat out that it was imperative that I always say “light/ no oil, no cheese, and no sauce or dressings.” The food is obviously not as scrumptious but I feel sure it’s not as bad either. Personally, I prefer to eat at home because when you are eating healthy the food out is just not as good.

    • Avatar davedave12 says:

      potatoes are not nasty— Potatoes are a very popular food source. Unfortunately, most people eat potatoes in the form of greasy French fries or potato chips, and even baked potatoes are typically loaded down with fats such as butter, sour cream, melted cheese and bacon bits. Such treatment can make even baked potatoes a potential contributor to a heart attack. But take away the extra fat and deep frying, and a baked potato is an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

      Our food ranking system qualified potatoes as a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid.

      Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. Among these important health-promoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.

      Blood-Pressure Lowering Potential

      UK scientists at the Institute for Food Research have identified blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines in potatoes. Previously only found in Lycium chinense, an exotic herbal plant whose bark is used to make an infusion in Chinese herbal medicine, kukoamines were found in potatoes using a new type of research called metabolomics.

  5. Avatar mmmpork says:

    Sponsored by Blue Apron, eh? This article is pretty bogus and you can tell simply by the use of absolutes (all your meals?). Cooking at home will only mean less calories if you control your portion size. I would argue that the reason people gain weight from eating at restaurants in the US is that the portion sizes are so huge.

    There are tons of tips out there for managing portion control when you eat out. Start out with a salad. Order off the kids menu or just ask for a lunch portion, and make up some medical excuse why you need a smaller portion. Ask for a to-go box with your meal, put half your food in it and put it away. Order a couple of appetizers instead of entrees. Share dessert.

    Finally, to the third point, eating in a restaurant is actually more socially gratifying than eating at home. When you’re in a restaurant, no one is distracted by food preparation or cleaning, so you can focus on each other. If someone is picky or has dietary restrictions, the whole group doesn’t have to suffer for it. It’s also an opportunity to try new foods you may not be comfortable preparing yourself.

    Clearly the point of this article was not to offer useful nutrition advice, but to advertise for Blue Apron.

  6. Avatar Mysideofthelake says:

    I thought the real reason to prepare you meals is because your body starts preparing itself for the eating experience. Taking the time allows your body to start lubricating and metabolizing, thus making digestion and energy transfer more efficient. These are nice Pinterest-y reasons, but I think people are looking for something more. The Diet industry is billions, and we’ve all read a ton of “easy-fix” stuff. Dear Experts, start teaching us the the causes and effects, not the methods of repair, and we’ll learn not to break stuff in the first place. Thanks of your article. Have a healthy day.

  7. Avatar Melanie says:

    These are great reminders of just how much better it is for us to cook and eat at home. I love incorporating the “wellness” concept of the family cooking and eating together, too, and how good that is for our relationships.

  8. Avatar Marci Vaughn says:

    Excellent post! Thank you for the great advice! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  9. Avatar ask4j says:

    #4 it costs far less!

  10. Avatar TravelingOne says:

    1 touches a bit on this but…. Better quality ingedients. Non-GMO, organic, no preservatives, etc.

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