Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
The number of families who frequently dine out instead of sharing a home cooked meal is on the rise. This trend is actually worrying me. It looks like we are letting our fast paced lives rob us of the priceless time that we can have when we eat family meals at home. I’m as busy at the next mom – there are days when I don’t think I’m even going to manage to get everyone out of the house in the morning. But I do recognize the benefits of sitting at home and eating instead of dealing with distractions and salty food at a restaurant. Research does in fact show that regularly eating home-cooked meals as a family is linked to healthier and happier kids, and teens who are less likely to use alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. For that reason alone I’ll find the time in my crazy schedule to pick up groceries and turn on the oven.
Here are some other good reasons why you should carve out some time in the kitchen – and a few tips on how you can build a home cooking habit that you’ll stay with:
Eating homemade meals is usually much cheaper than eating at a restaurant or buying pre-made food from the market. Cooking at home allows you to get more for your money by cutting out the excess costs of restaurant preparation and service. Plus, preparing food in large quantities, which you can do at home, allows you to be more economical with your money because you can get several meals out of a big batch of food by eating leftovers.
Families frequently eat out because they are rushed, but in reality, there are many homemade meals you can prepare in just 20 minutes that taste great and are nutritious. Think about all those times you had to wait 15 minutes to receive your check.
With all the food allergies out there, it’s just safer to eat at home. If you are cooking for yourself or the family, you can control what everybody eats to prevent health hazards like allergic reactions from nuts, dairy, shellfish, wheat, soy, gluten etc.
Restaurants often serve enormous portion sizes and it’s hard to fight the temptation to finish the food on the plate that is put in front of you. Preparing meals at home gives you the ability to exercise portion control and help curb the temptation of overeating. And the average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal.
Cooking at home can help reduce your carbon footprint. By adopting zero waste shopping habits – like cutting down on packaging, buying in bulk and using your own bags, you’ll make a positive impact on the environment. Choosing local ingredients or even growing your own ingredients will also help you achieve the same thing.
Strengthen your family bond
Eating meals together at home can strengthen family bonds as it provides time for the whole family to be together and talk about their day. For younger children, routine family meals can provide a sense of security and a feeling of belonging in the family. Older children and teenagers, too, prefer eating together as a family. In a recent Columbia University study, 71% of teenagers said they consider talking, catching-up, and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners. Social connections reinforced over meals can help us cultivate a sense of belonging and even reduce symptoms of depression.
If you are cooking at home, you have the power to choose healthier ingredients that are lower in sodium, fats, sugars and carbohydrates.You’re in control of the food you cook and the food you consume.