The average restaurant dish contains 60 percent more calories than a homemade meal. If that isn’t shocking enough, it also typically costs between $9 and $25 per person, which can add up to more than $200 in one week for the average-sized family. Saving money and calories are just a couple of the many benefits of choosing home cooking over dining out or shopping for convenience foods.
Improves family dynamics
• Initiates conversation: Everyone in the family, including mom and dad, could use a break from screen time throughout the day to have face-to-face conversations at mealtime. When dining out, the distracting environment and fast-paced experience can deter from meaningful interaction. Researchers found that young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud. For older, school-aged children, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.
• Learning opportunity: For toddlers, cooking at home is a chance to explore their senses, from smell to touch. Dinnertime becomes an opportunity to practice life skills, build healthy eating habits and practice good food safety. By the time a child is 12 years old, cooking can reiterate and teach basic math skills and chemical reactions.
• Stronger relationships: Working together as a family to cook healthy meals can be a chance to bond, spark creativity and learn when experimenting with new foods or recipes. It can be a weekly or daily tradition and creates lasting memories for the whole family.
Encourages Healthier Habits
• Healthier portions: When dining out, servings are normally two to four times larger than what is recommended. At home, healthy portions can be guaranteed based on accessibility to nutrition labels and the power to control the size of each serving.
• Healthier prep: Cooking meals at home diminishes the temptation of indulging in fried options and doesn’t involve the excess sugar, sodium and fats that are used to enhance the flavor of restaurant foods. The option to bake, grill and steam meats and veggies is possible at home. Home cooking puts you in the driver’s seat to control what is being consumed.
• Explores flavor: Preparing meals at home allows exploration with a wide variety of recipes, flavors and unique foods. Meal plan and name the days of the week to help inspire a delicious and diverse menu. For example, Mediterranean Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wellness Wednesdays, Kids Cook Thursdays, Leftover Fridays and more. Having a hard time with kids who hate veggies? Don’t give up—there are creative ways to sneak them in every meal. Remember, it can take approximately 10-20 tries to acquire a taste for different foods.
Supports Healthier Futures
• Better grades: A Columbia University study found that adolescents who enjoy between five and seven family dinners per week were twice as likely to see mostlyA’s and B’s on a grade report at school, compared to those teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week.
• Improves mental health: Using meal time to facilitate conversations and bond as a family has a significant impact on children. Time Magazine reports that teens who eat with their family at home often show fewer signs of depression and feel more supported than those who do not.
• Healthier generations: When children are exposed to healthier eating habits at a young age, they are more likely to invest in their health as adults. Often, the tradition carries on in future generations as well. g -Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit: AHealthierMichigan.org.
By Grace Derocha