Eating out has become a fast and easy meal time solution for many people. According to a 2005 survey conducted by Rutgers University, 38 percent of people say they eat out once a week. Sure, going out for dinner is convenient, but cooking and making time to eat meals together with your family has many benefits. Here are five:
1. You’ll lose weight.
If you eat out, take out, or rely on fast food, those extra calories and fat in your diet can add up. Prepackaged foods from the grocery store are also a diet trap because the portion in the box isn’t necessarily the portion you should be eating, according to Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. By cooking your own meals, you fill up on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates—foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and take a longer time to digest so you’ll feel more satisfied. “You have more control over what you’re consuming,” said Crandall, who is also a certified diabetes educator.
2. Your child won’t be obese.
More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese in America—a direct result of eating less home cooked meals. Fast food and restaurant fare rarely provide enough nutrients and fiber, plus they’re filled with saturated fat, sodium and sugar. By preparing your child’s meals, you eliminate processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sodium and increase the amount of fiber-rich foods that make up a healthy diet.
3. You’ll save money.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, eating fast food is actually more expensive than shopping at the supermarket. Cut costs at the grocery store by making a shopping list, planning the week’s meals, buying sale or generic brand items and selecting produce that’s in season. Plus, be sure to shop the perimeter of the store where lean meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables tend to be and avoid the center aisles which have processed foods and higher priced items.
4. Your family’s bond will be stronger.
Making a habit of having family dinners, even if it’s just three times a week can pay off, according to Dr. Les Parrott, author of The Hour That Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal, and founder of LesandLeslie.com. “Sharing the family dinner hour tethers a family together because it cultivates healthier and happier kids,” he said. There will be more laughter, more appreciation for each other, more affection, and communication will increase. “Perhaps most importantly, kids who grow up with this ritual are far more likely to feel loved by their parents,” he said.
5. Your kids will have a healthy future.
It’s important to teach your kids how to prepare and cook meals, according to Crandall, who says that many of her teenage clients have no idea how to prepare a healthy meal because it’s not demonstrated to them at home. And when your kids take an active role in grocery shopping and cooking, they’re learning at an early age how to eat a nutritious diet and lead a healthy lifestyle. “I think that will help our children to not only have healthier lifestyles, but also know how to prep those meals in advance and carry on that tradition of family meals and family time,” she said.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, and women's issues and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com