Self-Health Habit #8: Cook at Home

One of the most impactful things you can do for your health is cook at home. But let’s be clear— I’m not talking about nuking a freezer meal in your microwave or warming up that can of pre-fabbed whatever on your stovetop.

Optimal health is found in foods that you need to eat, refrigerate, or prepare for the freezer within days (rather than years), or they’ll go bad. In other words, fresh, perishable foods. That’s the good stuff, my friends. And that’s what I mean by truly cooking at home.

Harvard Medical School points out that when people cook at home frequently, their diet tends to be healthier, they eat fewer calories, and they’re less likely to be obese and/or develop type 2 diabetes. I don’t know about you, but I think these are all pretty darn good reasons to bring this self-health habit into your life.

Here are a few more:

You’re in control of your portions. Sure, this goes back to the idea that when you cook at home you’ll generally eat fewer calories, but it also eliminates temptation. I mean, how many times have you told yourself you would eat only half of that gorgeous (and gigantic) plate of food at your favorite restaurant, but fast forward through dinner conversation that’s as delicious as your meal, and you realize you’ve mindlessly gobbled up every last bite? (And maybe, if there’s sauce, you’ve been known to pick up your plate and licked it off without thinking about it.) So much for eating only half of your meal idea, right? I’ve been there. Don’t sweat it. Restaurant tip: Ask your server to box up half of your meal before it even lands in front of you.

When you cook and eat your meals at home, you can use a smaller plate. This puts the brakes on serving yourself a huge portion right from the start.

You’re in control of your ingredients—both quality and quantity. When you cook at home, you can sauté those veggies in a healthy fat and decide how much healthy sweetener to use when you make a sweet treat. Your sauces won’t have any strange chemicals or sugar, which are both addictive and can switch off your brain’s natural self-regulating appetite controls. These are all much better options than the cheap and often health-robbing choices many of us make when we eat out.

Of course, you can seek out restaurants that use mostly healthy, high-quality ingredients, but be prepared for a higher price tag. On those special occasions when you decide to eat out, a more expensive restaurant is fine and dandy. On a daily basis, you probably won’t do it. Which leads to my next reason to cook at home.

You’re in control of your food expenses. Even if you’re making the most luxurious meal imaginable, buying the ingredients and cooking at home is less expensive than a restaurant. If you’re craving a particular restaurant dish or premade meal, try seeking out a recipe online. Bonus: If you make the full recipe and/or double it, you’ll be able to eat your favorite meal for lunch the next day too. You may even get another dinner out of it.

Think of the money even a simple habit like buying a daily smoothie can cost you. I’m willing to bet you could buy the ingredients and make a week’s worth at home for not much more than the cost of a single smoothie. And your blender will be happy that it gets to do its job on a daily basis.

While my reasons may not carry as much clout as the ones from Harvard Medical School, I think you’ll agree that they’re valid and worthy of acknowledging. Yes? Good, I’m glad we’re on the same page. 😉

For the next month, make it a priority to cook at home and see how much better you feel. If you’re celebrating Family Fun Month, get your whole family in the kitchen chopping, stirring, blending, and stir-frying. You’ll be having fun and teaching your kids a crucial life skill.

Images from iStock/Milkos (main), DGLimages (post). 

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of “Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health”, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she has discovered with those who are interested. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy. To get in touch with her, leave a message here or check out her website at PaulaWidish.com

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