Californian households were found to spend an average of $4,739 on meals away from home each year, according to a 2022 study conducted by Meal Delivery Experts.
This isn’t surprising as the number of American consumers preferring to eat out over cooking at home has been increasing year by year. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau shows Americans spent more than 20% more at restaurants than on groceries in 2022, and the trend seems to be continuing into 2023.
Understandably, many parents struggle to cook at home as the prices of groceries increase and food delivery services and restaurants become more ubiquitous. However, the best parenting decision you can make is to continue cooking healthy food at home. Home-cooked meals have numerous health benefits for the entire family and a host of different benefits that we will discuss in this article.
Nutritional value of home-cooked meals
Ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook convenience foods are lifesavers for busy parents who do not have time to cook at home. However, these are often full of preservatives and lack the fundamental nutrients needed for children to grow healthy and strong.
Cooking at home means that you can control what ingredients and nutrients are in your meals. In fact, 2020 research from the AJLM confirms that home cooking can help you eat fewer calories, fat, and sugar. Home cooking is therefore associated with numerous health benefits, such as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and other chronic diseases. This can be crucial for young, growing bodies whose immune systems are still developing.
Variety of home-cooked meals
Eating out can be an exciting experience. However, cooking healthy at home can be just as novel and exciting. That’s because cooking healthy and cooking for weight loss doesn’t have to mean depriving one’s family of food that they like. In fact, it means focusing on what value you add to each meal. You can make strategic ingredient swaps, for example, from refined carbohydrates to whole grains for increased fiber, that will allow you to keep your child’s favorite mac and cheese dish by using whole grain macaroni. You can then load up the dish with vitamins by incorporating mild vegetables such as baby spinach, grated carrots, or steamed broccoli florets.
Frequent consumption of convenient foods can encourage picky eating behavior and make it more challenging to introduce healthy vegetables in the household later on. Furthermore, cooking healthy food at home allows your family to move away from these processed foods that are known to aggravate obesity in children and adults, and encourage kids to eat different healthy foods as they grow.
Benefits of cooking together
Picky eating behavior has also been found to be reduced by getting the fussy child involved in the cooking process. Dr. Ann Kennedy-Behr, a researcher from the University of South Australia, explains that direct involvement encourages the fussy child to see value in each meal that is dished out on the dining table. That’s because their involvement fosters a sense of familiarity and control with food. Having your child help out in the kitchen also fosters their sense of independence and nurtures their motor skills. It also serves as a great bonding opportunity for the family, who get to explore working together towards a common goal despite different age groups. Parents can also take an active role in discussing the importance of good nutrition and eating habits with their children while cooking in the kitchen.
Are you a parent who’s stuck with a busy schedule? Start planning healthy meals in advance to make cooking at home easier. By planning meals with in-season veggies and reusing the same ingredients, we can ensure that our family members and loved ones grow healthy and strong with delicious home-cooked meals.
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