New Year’s resolution: Cook more often!
If you are looking for a New Year's resolution that will improve your personal health and longevity, promote the health of your family, reduce your carbon footprint and add pleasure to your life, the answer is simply to cook more often. Here are the facts:
Frequent Cooking is Associated with Longer Life
A Taiwanese and Australian study looked at the cooking habits of 1,888 men and women and found that cooking up to 5 times a week increased the odds of being alive in 10 years by 47%. The researchers attributed the extended longevity not just to the nutrients consumed by frequent cooks, but by the entire activity of cooking: planning, shopping, the physical activity, the mental requirements and the act of eating meals with others.
Cooking Transcends Wealth as a Predictor of Longevity
The same Taiwanese study found that lower income people who cooked had better longevity than wealthier people who did not cook.
Eating Home Cooked Family Meals Has Huge Benefits
Kids who eat home cooked meals with their family are less likely to be overweight, less likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, have lower truancy rates, are happier and get better grades. These facts makes me wonder if sitting down to dinner with your kids is perhaps the most important activity you can do with them.
Cooking Puts You in Control
When you cook at home you control portions, salt, sugar and trans fat and can avoid any ingredients your family may have allergies or sensitivities to. Shopping for your ingredients puts you in charge of where your food comes from. Shopping for your ingredients allows you to control whether your food is organically, locally and sustainably grown. Cooking at home allows you to add a variety of healthy foods to your diet, particularly fruits and vegetables.
Cooking at Home Allows You to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Home cooking allows you to reduce your carbon footprint by buying more whole foods and less packaged foods. Cooking at home gives you the opportunity to support local farmers by purchasing ingredients through CSA's or farmer's markets, or better yet, growing some of your own ingredients. Cooking at home allows you to shift your consumption towards more plant-based foods, which is healthy for your body and for the environment.
Cooking Saves Money
Home cooking is less expensive than buying the same meal at a restaurant. Additional money can be saved by eating leftovers the next day and minimizing waste.
America's Sad Statistics
Obesity statistics in the U.S. are staggering.
- 57% of American meals are eaten alone. (NPD Study)
- In the U.S. more than half of money spent on food is spent on eating out.
- More than one third of adults are obese.
- 6.3% of adults are extremely obese.
- More than 20% of U.S. adolescents ages 12 - 19 are obese.
- 17.7 % of children ages 6- 11 are obese.
- 8.4% of children ages 2 - 5 are obese.
- $147 billion dollars is the annual estimated medical cost of obesity in the U.S.
How to Cook More Often
While it is clear that cooking at home has great value, the biggest concern most people have about cooking more often is where to find the time to cook. Here are some tips to help you cook more efficiently:
Plan and Schedule Your Home Cooked Meals
Schedule your home cooked meals just like you would schedule going out. Spend a little time each week planning your meals so that you can efficiently shop for your ingredients for multiple meals.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Plan meals that allow you to cook once, but eat two, three or four meals. Make larger quantities than you need for one meal and freeze the rest for future meals. Chili, soup, stews and lasagna are perfect cook once, eat twice dishes. Or make one dish that can be used for multiple meals. For instance, a roast chicken can serve as a main course one night and then used for sandwiches or a hearty salad the next night.
Cook and Prep on the Weekends
Make time on the weekends to cook dishes to eat during the week when you are busier. Prep salad ingredients on the weekends so that all you have to do is assemble your salads during the week.
Consider Investing in a Slow Cooker
Investing in a slow cooker can help reduce your active cooking time. I use this Cuisinart 6-quart slow cooker for two reasons: 1) it has a browning function that allows me to do everything in one pot, and 2) it is large enough to make multiple meals.
Share the Work and Make Cooking a Group Activity and a Teaching Moment
Cooking with other people is as enjoyable as eating with other people, be it young children, family members, significant others or friends.
If you have small children, get them involved in the kitchen. Kids naturally love to cook and will help out even at a young age if they are allowed and encouraged to. Don't worry about the mess, this is a teaching moment that can lead to a lifetime of good nutrition habits. When kids cook they are more likely to try new foods.
Make this recipe for Homemade applesauce with your kids.
If you are single or your kids are grown, cooking with friends or your spouse can make preparing dinner a fun social activity. If you are cooking with or for someone else, you are more likely to make the effort of cooking something healthy.
Throw Dinner Parties Instead of Eating Out
Everyone enjoys being invited over for a home-cooked meal. Instead of going out to dinner have your friends over. Don't worry about having enough matching plates or having to make something fancy. People appreciate any meal that is cooked for them. Better yet, start a dinner club and rotate dinners amongst friends. If you have six in your club that means you cook once and then get to go to your friends' house for five meals. How can you beat that?
One Final Important Tip
Increase the Number of Healthy Ingredients You Consume, Particularly Plant-Based Foods
A Swedish study of 59,038 woman found:
"A healthy diet can affect longevity. It appears more important to increase the number of healthy foods regularly consumed than to reduce the number of less healthy foods regularly consumed.”
Think about this statement. As a cook, I personally found it liberating. You can improve your health by focusing on increasing the number of healthy foods you eat, rather than focusing on restricting the number of unhealthy foods you eat. This has become my personal nutrition philosophy. I focus on adding a wide variety healthy plant-based foods to my diet, rather than beating myself up when I indulge in something less healthy.
The same study found that woman who regularly ate 16 - 17 healthy foods had a 42% lower mortality rate from all causes compared to woman who consumed 0 - 8 healthy foods. So go ahead and eat that occasional cookie, just back it up with a salad or some roasted vegetables first.
This post was originally published on 1/1/2015 and was updated for 2016. I believe cooking more often is a worthy resolution for every year. Originally this post was part of a collaboration of 42 bloggers all writing on how to make 2015 the best year ever. Below are a list of these articles. Have a wonderful year!
- How to Set and Keep Goals to Make This the Best Year Ever | Jen @ Girl in Garage
- 15 Ways to Stay Organised at Work During 2015 | Elizabeth Harrin @ A Girl's Guide to Project Management
- How Personal Style Will Help You Achieve Goals Faster in 2015 | Cherene Francis @ Aura Image Consulting
- Completing Those Unfinished Projects in the NEW YEAR | Angela Lerew @ Unexpected Elegance
- 42 Ways to Practice Perfectly & Become an Expert at Almost Anything | Amy Garro @ 13 Spools
- Easy Exercises to do on a Cruise Ship | Amanda Woods @ Adventures All Around
- 10 Simple Ways to Eat Healthier This Year | Dawn @ Reveal Natural Health
- 31 Days to a More Fabulous You | Julie Bonner @ Mom Fabulous
- How to Make This the Best Gardening Year Ever | Kendra Spencer @ a Sonoma Garden
- Make This the Best Monarch Season Ever | Tony Gomez @ Monarch Butterfly Garden
- 12 Scriptures for Goals and Guidance | Julie @ Loving Christ Ministries
- How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less | Jackie Beck @ The Debt Myth
- Family Verse of the Week Challenge for 2015 | Jamie Yonash @ Life is Sweeter By Design
- Hot Work at Home Jobs for 2015 | Holly Hanna @ The Work at Home Woman
- A Year of Intention | Hilary Bernstein @ Accidentally Green
- 2015: Our Best Year Yet | Ashley @ Leaving the Rut
- Create a Better Life Story | Bronwen Warner @ Tummy Time and Beyond
- Get Ready to Get MDfit | Tom and Anne @ Eat & Be Fit
- 5 Free Ways to Learn Something New This Year | Sarah Fuller @ Saving Sarah
- Healthy Leek Soup | Mirlandra @ Mirlandra's Kitchen
- Health Resolutions: Baby Steps to a New You | Ellen Christian @ Confessions of an Overworked Mom
- 5 Ways Busy Moms Can Get Motivated to Work Out | Diane Nassy @ philZENdia
- Be Prepared for the New Year | Jennifer Dunham Starr @ Memory Journalists
- 3 Steps to a Healthier Life in 2015 | Joe Goodwill @Average Joe Cyclist
- New Year's Resolution: Cook More Often! | Kim Pawell @ Something New for Dinner
- I Should What? 28 Ways to be Happier | Karen Young @ Hey Sigmund
- 9 Ways to Get Healthier In The New Year | Amy Maus @ Home and Farm Sense
- In 2015 Resolve to Take Control of Your Money | Kristia @ Family Balance Sheet
- Eucharisteo: A Year of Thanksgiving | Lani Padilla @ Simply Fresh Vintage
- No More Tears at IEP Meetings: Make This Your Best Year Ever! | Lisa Lightner @ A Day In Our Shoes
- Learn to Save Money on Groceries | Melissa Buckles @ Everyday Savvy
- How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution - For Real This Time! | Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies
- 52 Weeks to a Better You: Week 1 - Go to Bed Early | Mindi Cherry @ Moms Need to Know
- Food Street: How a Community Has Joined Forces to Start a Street Farm | Sam Walker @ Bubble 'N Squeak
- Organizing Coupons with the Binder Method | Sara Steigerwald @ Sisters Shopping on a Shoe String
- How to Make This Year the Happiest Yet | Shambray @ Shambray.com
- A New Year, A New You | Sharon Rowe @ How to Get Organized at Home
- 5 Ways to Get Paid for Losing Weight This Year | Anna @ Real Ways to Earn Money at Home
- Tips for Successful Whole30 | Deanna Michaels @ From This Kitchen Table
- 75 Ways to Be Healthier in 2015 | Maryea Flaherty @ Happy Healthy Mama
- How to Make 2015 the Best Year Ever! | Jennifer @ My Boys & Their Toys