Proof that Healthy Eating Starts at Home
I am going to get straight to the point. Developing the lifestyle habits that ensure lasting health is of primary importance in the quest for wellbeing and fulfillment. And, I believe that this quest should begin with the advancement of our cooking skills and the implementation of shared meals.
According to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, taking meals as a family encourages children to eat more fruits and vegetables and discourages the overconsumption of less-than-ideal foods that contain excessive amounts of sugar, salt and harmful fats. Along the same vein, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that adolescent consumption of ‘novel’, or unfamiliar, fruits and vegetables increased with repeated exposure, which can help improve a child’s relationship with food while providing the ensuring that micronutrient needs are met through the consistent consumption of a variety of foods. Finally, according to the Journal of Marriage and Family, children who share meals with their parents score markedly better on a range of well-being indicators, which assess life satisfaction and happiness.
Outside of the quantitative benefit of shared, home cooked meals, building a stronger relationship with our food will encourage a more mindful nutritional philosophy that properly take into account our cultural, familial and spiritual need. For example, individuals who observe a meat-free diet out of concern for the ethical treatment of animals would not be well served by recommendations that favor the liberal use of animal foods.
On the other side of the coin, no argument for the value of home cooking would be complete without discussing the typical alternative, restaurant dining and fast food. First, although restaurants and fast-food chains are now offering what many perceive to be healthier options, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine highlights how marginal the improvements in nutritional quality have been (an average of 45 of the Healthy Eating Index in 1998 to a 48 in 2010) and clearly illustrates the industry wide resistance to making healthy advancements to their core product offering. Next, although it is believed that the menu-labeling policies that are being implemented to mandate restaurants to provide nutrition information for their foods will encourage consumers to make better eating decisions, another study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that such practices had little immediate impact on purchase decisions and, when they did start to take effect (18 months after implementation), only a fraction of diners (women) actually changed their eating behavior. Finally, even when mindful eating choices are made, the ingredients and cooking methods used in restaurant fair are often of inferior quality, which may have a detrimental effect upon health and wellness. More specifically, the oils used in the majority of restaurants are highly unstable and are easily transformed during cooking into substances that wreak all sorts of havoc on the body while the meats, vegetables and highly refined grains utilized in restaurant chain meals often come from industrialized and homogenized food production outfits where the liberal use of harsh chemicals and drugs degrade nutritional value. Further, industrial food manufacturers often place little importance on the ethical treatment of animals or the environment, which is morally offensive to pretty much everyone.
If all this science wasn’t enough convince you, cooking with your friends and family can alo be loads of fun! I mean honestly, who doesn’t have a good time while playing with food and making a mess in the kitchen? Not to mention the conviviality that can develop through casual conversation and shared meals.
Let there be no confusion as to what is of primary importance in our quest for health and wellness. Cooking at home and eating with our loved ones fosters the physical, emotional and spiritual health that will have a tremendous impact on our ability to serve our selves and others.