The benefits of cooking at home vs eating out - 10 tips for successfully making healthy and tasty food

  • 3 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Find out why frequent restaurant meals might be a problem for your health and learn 10 tips for successfully make healthy and tasty food at home.

The benefits of cooking at home vs eating out - 10 tips for successfully making healthy and tasty food

The benefits of cooking at home vs eating out

The USDA reports that food away from home's (FAFH) share of total average daily calorie intake increased from 17% in 1977-78 to 34% in 2011-12. Consumption of fast casual food (ie Chipotle, Panera Bread) was the largest source of growth.

There are many reasons we obtain our food and drink away from home, including convenience and saving time. In addition, studies are finding that many people do not prepare foods in the home because they feel they lack cooking skills, think it will be more expensive and it takes too much of their time. One study showing that the same people who reported lack of time to cook at home were not concerned about the time they spent on the computer, watching television or using the cell phone. Hmm.

So, we spend more time using electronics than cooking. What's the problem, you ask? Well, it may be part of the reason we have a growing obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country. A review of studies showed eating FAFH is positively linked with becoming overweight or obese. Other findings indicate that the odds of becoming overweight/obese are considerably higher when families report having at least one weekly meal away from home. Percent body fat and heart disease risk were considerably greater with weekly purchases of fast food and take-out meals. Restaurant meals often have larger portions (so we get our money's worth), have more saturated fat and more sodium, but are usually lower in fruits, vegetables, fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition, the USDA reports that the nutritional composition of FAFH across all income levels and all types of foods (except school food) was consistently lower quality and more caloric than food prepared at home.

Do you want to cook more often at home but feel a little unsure of yourself in the kitchen? Just get in there and have some fun! Turn on your favorite music and start cooking. Instead of feeling intimidated by celebrity chefs, you may want to get a cookbook, like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens, to help you learn some cooking basics. Now, I won't lie. You do need to do a little planning and organizing to make it happen. Start with a grocery list and a few simple recipes.

Here are some of my favorite tips for cooking healthy and tasty food at home:

1. Find a few recipes to cook each week

Did you know there are over 200+ dietitian-approved recipes that are now available with the Premium MyNetDiary membership? With Premium, if you want to add a Premium recipe to your food diary, you just type in the recipe name. It is already entered and analyzed for you. There are also loads of recipes out there on the web. Go to sites with healthy recipes, such as

2. Keep a collection of recipes

Use a computer file, recipe card file or notebook so it is easy to find your recipes. Rate your recipes so you can remember which ones you enjoyed. Get rid of the ones you didn't like.

3. Do more time-intensive cooking on your days off

Make a double batch so you have another frozen meal already prepped. For other meal prepping tips, check out my recent blog with some of my favorite foods to keep prepped in the kitchen.

4. Use tools that make cooking easier

Pull out the crock pot, insta pot, pressure cooker or use convection oven baking or roasting to make cooking easier and faster.

5. For busy weeks, choose recipes that can do double duty.

Grilled or roasted chicken can be used later in the week for chicken salad and for a chicken casserole. Freeze some for a later recipe. Have a marker on hand to label frozen containers with contents and date.

6. When you chop peppers and onions, chop extra to freeze for later.

You can also buy pre-washed and pre-cut fresh veggies, or frozen diced onions and peppers for soups and casseroles.

7. Keep a running grocery list

Keep a list on the kitchen counter or in your phone so you can list items needed. Stocking your kitchen based on the food groups can help you come up with simple healthy meals. A simple meal might consist of a microwaved sweet potato with cottage cheese, steamed broccoli and salsa. For dessert, have yogurt topped with frozen berries and nuts.

8. Freeze foods that spoil quickly

If you are worried about food going bad, freeze items like breads, muffins, nuts and cheese. Frozen vegetables, fruits and whole grains are also great as they don't perish quickly.

9. Keep the pantry stocked

Stock your kitchen with a variety of food groups. Include fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as whole grain rice, couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and polenta. Dairy products can be refrigerated or frozen and always keep a variety of lean proteins like poultry, eggs, tofu, and pulses. Remember to stock healthy fats and oils and herbs and spices.

10. Have fun in the kitchen

Play your favorite music and unwind while you cook. Before you know it, you may just find yourself looking forward to preparing meals at home!

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Updated: April 1, 2020

Dining Out->Portion Size & Calories Meal Planning & Diets->"Plan, Shop, Prep, and Cook"
Apr 1, 2020

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