We all love convenience food, but one of the simplest ways to improve your health is by preparing more cooking home meals. Here’s how to get started.
Whether you live on your own or are a busy parent, finding the time and energy to prepare home-cooked meals can seem like a daunting task. At the end of a hectic day, eating out or ordering in might feel like the quickest, easiest option. But convenience and processed food can take a significant toll on your mood and health.
Convenience food is typically high in chemical additives, hormones, sugar, salt, unhealthy fat, and calories, all of which can adversely affect your brain and outlook. It can leave you feeling tired, bloated, and irritable, and exacerbate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Restaurants often serve more food than you should eat. Many restaurants serve portions that are two to three times larger than the recommended dietary guidelines. This encourages you to eat more than you would at home, adversely affecting your waistline, blood pressure, and risk of diabetes.
When you prepare your own meals, you have more control over the ingredients. By cooking for yourself, you can ensure that you and your family eat fresh, wholesome meals. This can help you to look and feel healthier, boost your energy, stabilize your weight and mood, and improve your sleep and resilience to stress.
Cooking at home doesn’t have to be complicated. The cornerstone of a healthy diet is to eat food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it. That means replacing processed food with real food whenever possible and eating plenty of vegetables and healthy sources of protein. It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen combining hundreds of different ingredients or slavishly following elaborate recipes. In fact, simple meals are often the tastiest.
Cooking at home can even take less time that eating out. There are plenty of quick, simple, and wholesome meals you can cook at home in less time than it takes to travel to a restaurant or wait for a delivery.
Cooking at home is also a great way to spend time with others—and you don’t have to be an accomplished chef. Whatever your abilities or experience as a cook, you can learn to prepare quick and healthy meals that can have real benefits for your mental and physical health.
Preparing healthy meals at home can support your immune system and reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
It can give you more energy, improve how you sleep at night, and help you better manage health problems.
In women, cooking healthy food can help reduce symptoms of PMS and menopause, and boost fertility.
If you’re on a special diet or trying to lose weight, preparing meals for yourself gives you more control over ingredients and portion sizes, enabling you to better control your weight or cope with food allergies.
By practicing safe food handling while you cook at home, you’re less likely to contract a foodborne illness.
Cooking at home can sharpen your mind, fight cognitive decline, and decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s.
It can stabilize kids’ energy and help them grow into healthy, confident adults.
Emotional and social benefits
The simple process of cooking at home can be empowering and improve your mood and self-esteem.
Taking time out from a busy schedule to cook can also be a great stress reliever.
Preparing even simple meals at home can be creatively fulfilling.
Adopting a diet of healthy, home-cooked meals can increase your resilience to stress, anxiety, and depression and boost your mood and outlook.
Cooking and eating with family is a great way to bond with your loved ones.
Inviting friends to join you can expand your social circle, which can alleviate stress.
Eating wholesome meals can even add joy to your life. When your body feels healthier, you feel happier—inside and out.
Food brings people together and cooking at home is a great way to unite your family over the dining table. Everyone loves a home-cooked meal—even moody teenagers or picky eaters. And if you live alone, that doesn’t mean you have to cook or eat alone. Sharing meals with others is a great way to expand your social network. Getting appreciative feedback on a meal you’ve prepared for someone can bring a real boost to your self-esteem, too.
Make mealtimes a social experience. The simple act of talking to a friend or loved over the dinner table can play a big role in relieving stress and boosting mood. Gather the family together and stay up to date with each other’s daily lives. If you live alone, invite a friend, coworker, or neighbor over.
Switch off screens. Take a break from the TV, turn off your phone, and avoid other distractions so you have a real chance to connect with the person you’re sharing a meal with. By avoiding screens and eating with others, you’ll also help to avoid mindless overeating.
Cook with others. Invite your spouse, roommate, or a friend to share shopping and cooking responsibilities—one prepares the entrée, the other dessert, for example. Cooking with others can be a fun way to deepen relationships and splitting the costs can make it cheaper for both of you.cooking home
Despite all the benefits, many of us still think of preparing meals as a chore, either something that we don’t have time for, or something that’s only suitable for experienced cooks. Maybe you’ve tried cooking before and didn’t like the end results, or maybe your kids just prefer takeout food?