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The Benefits of Cooking Dinner at Home

The Benefits of Cooking Dinner at Home Photo

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by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD

After a summer filled with no-cook dinners, outdoor barbecues, and eating out, there is something refreshing about the coming of fall. Much like the beginning of a new year, we see fall as a time to start new routines and healthy habits. It's a perfect time to get back in the kitchen and cook weeknight dinners.

Here is a quick look at some of the many benefits associated with cooking dinner at home:

It's Healthier Than Eating Out

Most restaurant portions offer two to three times as many calories as we need, not to mention an abundance of fat and salt. You are also less likely to get fresh vegetables and whole grains. But when you cook your own meals, you have full control of the ingredients. So you can make your meal as low in fat or high in vegetables as you want to. And rather than sitting down to an over-sized portion of pasta, you can start with a little, and then help yourself to some more--if you are still hungry.

Moreover, research shows that children who regularly sit down to eat together tend to be more physically active, watch less TV, and eat more healthfully than children who don't regularly sit down to eat dinner together.

It Saves You Money

Eating dinner out just a few times a week can easily cost more than a full week's worth of groceries. The key to maximizing your savings is being organized (and not shopping on an empty stomach). Plan a week's worth of meals and then write up your grocery list. Before heading out, cross off the ingredients you already have on hand and check your local flyer for any money saving coupons.

It Saves You Time

Getting yourself organized will not only save you money, but it will also save you time. If you cook mostly recipes from your own repertoire, you should be able to compose a weekly meal plan and shopping list in under 30 minutes. Of course, if you are newer in the kitchen or like to thumb through magazines and cookbooks in search of new recipes, then this process may take a little longer. One way to save time here is to use a meal planning service such as CooksAid, which will give you access to a week’s worth of dinner recipes and the corresponding grocery list in less than a minute.

Whichever method you choose, planning a week's worth of meals will save you time at the end of the week. No longer do you have to spend time thinking about what to do for dinner, make extra trips to the grocery store, or wait for your take out food to arrive.

It Provides Valuable Family Time

Sitting down to eat dinner at home provides valuable family time. Although it may be unrealistic to get the whole family to sit down together seven nights a week, aim for at least five nights a week. Ideally, turn the TV off and tune into each other's conversations instead. Try to get your kids involved with preparing the food, setting the table, or cleaning up. If you have younger kids that need to eat earlier, try having them sit down with the rest of the family for a dessert or bedtime snack. This way they will still be exposed to the different foods you may be eating and you will also get in some valuable family time.

It Teaches You to Savor Food

Finally, the act of preparing and cooking your own meals can help everyone who is involved learn to appreciate and enjoy food. This is especially important in this day in age when it's easy to fall into the routine of eating on the go, mindless munching, and turning to ready-prepared convenience foods. Learning to savor your food can help you tune into the act of eating, making you less likely to overeat and thereby less likely to become overweight.

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