A Johns Hopkins University study examined the eating habits of roughly 9,000 U.S. adults and found that those who prepare and eat the majority of their meals at home consume fewer calories, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates—not to mention less sugar—than those who opt for fast food.
The study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, was led by Julia Wolfson, a trained chef and fellow at the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future. While many people think cooking at home is too expensive or time consuming, says Wolfson, she stresses it is often easier than one might think.
Here are a few simple tips to help you get started:
- Plan ahead. Choose recipes, make a list, and shop over the weekend to make weeknight meal prep faster and simpler. You can also chop veggies in advance, or prepare and freeze meals and individual portions.
- Choose fewer processed foods, more real foods. Learn to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where you will find fresh produce and healthy protein sources. Avoid the center aisles that contain pre-packaged, processed foods made with added sugar and preservatives.
- Take a beginner cooking class or go online. Classes are often offered through local schools and community centers, but the internet is also a valuable resource for recipes, ideas, and instruction. Just one video can transform dinner!
- Get kids involved. Even the pickiest kids and teens will usually try something new if they are included in the process. Let them choose recipes, help with shopping and preparation, and even offer their own suggestions.
With better nutrition comes better health and weight management, and cooking at home allows us to make smarter choices about the foods we eat and the meals we prepare. The more you cook at home, the simpler it will get, and the healthier you (and your family) will feel.