I teach a basic nutrition class at one of our local colleges. I feel like it’s more than basic nutrition because we talk about monosaccharides and AMDRs for macronutrients, but nonetheless, it’s a basic nutrition class. My students come out of class knowing so much more than when they started. We’re only halfway through the semester right now and I can already tell they’re thinking critically about nutrition, not just the surface of nutrition that you hear about in social media.
In my class, we focus a lot on diet related chronic disease. I make this one of the main talking points about every class, because that is ultimately the main goal of nutrition in life. I don’t want them to come away from this class just being able to name every vitamin/mineral deficiency sign and symptom (which they have to know anyway), but how to take nutrition and apply it to their everyday life.
Somewhere in the time when I was in high school (…gasp…over 20 years ago), we stopped teaching young adults how to actually live…as an adult, and do adult things, like cook for themselves. I’ll admit it. I didn’t learn how to do it either. It wasn’t important. It was grades, extracurricular, and work. All to get into college or have the money to go to college. Nothing else mattered, definitely not some silly chore of cooking.
What I have found in my students, is that about 25% of them feel comfortable in the kitchen. There are some that are really good. I recently provided an extra credit opportunity for them to find a healthy recipe, cook it, and share their results, complete with pictures and the ability to articulate why it was healthy. About 10% of my students participated. Some were experts in the kitchen and admittedly, some were not, and I was so happy for the brave ones who wanted the points so badly they did it.
If we start talking about diet related chronic disease and obesity, there are so many factors behind it, but much of it has to do with nutrition. Portion sizes, trans fat, the “junk” in food, lack of fruit and vegetables, access to fast and convenient food, etc. The list goes on, and it’s not a singular factor.
If you look at people who have lost a significant amount of weight, or you ask those who successfully maintain their weight, I would bet they eat at home or prepare their food at home more often than not.
So, where am I going with this? Home cooked meals. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that individuals who cooked at home ate more fruits and vegetables and were less likely to be overweight or have excess body fat.
First, let me say that we already know this, but unfortunately, they have to do a study to prove this. Now, I truly believe there are way to cheat this model. Eating frozen chicken nuggets and boxed mac and cheese is not what we are talking about here. We’re talking about home cooked meals, cooked with wholesome ingredients. This study specifically looked at adherence to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet. Home cooking increased adherence to both of these diets. There are obviously some holes in this study, but finally someone is noticing the link.
If I point out the positives from cooking at home, here are my top 2
- You choose the quality of the ingredients down to the type of oil you use. When eating away from home, most restaurants will choose the cheapest oil possible, which is not always the healthiest. This applies to all ingredients. Fruits and vegetables are not in abundance when eating away from home, but in your own kitchen…go crazy.
- You are able to control your portion sizes better. If you buy a meal, you are more than likely to eat more because you paid for it. We all have this inclination to want to get our money’s worth out of a meal. More is not always better.
These two points alone will make a world of difference in your nutritional health. Having control of your food is the first step in improving your diet.
This website has evolved since its inception in 2013. I used to think that in order to be a healthy eating blog, I had to put all kinds of weird ingredients in my recipes to make them healthier. While, I still sometimes will add an avocado to brownies, or have sweet potato tacos, it’s because it’s a creative recipe. However, I was always scared to post my home cooked and delicious foods that may not be the healthiest, such as yummy butter cookies.
I realized not too long ago that this website is a reflection of my life. I have a real life with kids, a job, a husband, cleaning, laundry, so.many.activities., friends, and all of the extras that take up time. I cook every night and I work my absolute hardest to put a healthy meal on the table every night, like so many of you. I do love a good dessert though and I’m not scared of butter. So, you will start to see everything I make and I hope you love it all.
Let’s all get back in the kitchen.
Study Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561571/