Combine fast food and carryout with an over-scheduled life and you have a recipe for weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. For many people, eating out is the norm rather than the exception. Pack a lunch for work? Who ever thought of such a thing? Make dinner after a long day at work? Are you crazy?
You may want to consider how often you eat out then look at the scale. Chances are, the more you eat at restaurants, the more you weigh. It’s a fact most restaurant foods are high in calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. It’s also a fact that home-cooked meals can be just as unhealthy if you’re not careful. While it’s possible to find healthy options on menus these days, it’s a lot harder to resist the temptation of fries, shakes, and breadbaskets when they’re so easily accessible.
Don’t let the idea of home-cooked meals scare you off. With a little planning, eating at home can be healthy, simple, and easy at the same time. Here’s why you should make your own meals this week.
As the calories add on, so do the pounds. Studies show people who eat at home consume, on average, 140 fewer calories a day. This may not seem like much, but add those calories up over a year and it equals several pounds of extra weight.
There seems to be a second reason why preparing your own meals saves you calories. People who regularly eat home-cooked meals tend to eat fewer calories when they do step foot in a restaurant. This may be because they’re used to eating smaller portions or because they know how to choose healthier options.
Sugar equals calories, and many restaurant foods are loaded with sugar. It’s common to think sugar is only hiding in desserts when in fact it’s found in countless dishes, drinks, sauces, and condiments.
It’s easier to keep soda out of your refrigerator than it is to say “no” to the large soda that comes with your meal. Keep calories at bay and prevent blood sugar spikes by cooking at home with ingredients you know are low in sugar.
One meal at a restaurant can easily set you well over your recommended daily amount of sodium. Some meals even contain four times the amount of sodium you should consume in a day. Some sodium is needed for health, but too much can increase your blood pressure, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
It’s a lot easier to control how much sodium you consume when you can read nutrition labels and limit your consumption of processed foods, but you have no idea how much sodium is hiding in your mozzarella sticks appetizer. Be safe and add flavor to your home-cooked meals with garlic, spices, and herbs.
Reduce Saturated Fat
Some fats are good for you in moderation, others are not. Trans fats should be avoided completely and saturated fats should be limited. Found primarily in foods from animals (meats and dairy), saturated fats increase your cholesterol and your risk of stroke and heart disease.
Restaurant foods are notorious for being high in both trans and saturated fats. Think butter, creams, gravies, oil, cheese, fried foods, and fatty meat, and you’ll get a clear picture of what these dangerous fats look like.