We all know that our diet is a major influence on our health. Our food choices determine whether or not we are getting adequate amounts of the nutrients our bodies need to function properly. According to research, it seems that eating home cooked meals may lead to better health outcomes than eating out frequently. This is definitely not surprising, but the extent of the benefits and some of the specific benefits may surprise you. Hopefully the following information will motivate you to make time for nutritious family dinners that are not only good for your health, but your family's health as well.

Kid-Specific Benefits

If you want to do everything you can to ensure your children's well-being, having frequent family home-cooked meals may be something you want to put near the top of the list. According to WebMD, research has shown that children who eat home-cooked meals more frequently were less likely to be overweight. Studies found family meals tend to contain more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, soda and trans fat.

A survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens whose families ate together frequently were less likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, something that provides myriad other benefits besides better physical and mental health. To boot, these kids tended to get better grades. Other surveys have found that children who ate frequently with their families tended to be happier with life in general.

Better Balanced Meals

Studies have found that eating out led to at least a 50 percent increase in calories consumed, sodium and total fat intake. When eating out occasionally, this splurge is not a big deal in the long run; but with the rapid increase in people eating in restaurants or getting take-out and delivery from said restaurants rather than cooking at home, this really adds up to significant overeating considering the serving sizes of most meals.

How many times have you stuffed yourself at a restaurant simply because the food was there? According to research conducted at Harvard University, families that ate together every day or most days had higher intake of health-promoting nutrients such as calcium, fiber, iron, vitamin B-6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin C; they also had less overall saturated fat intake.

Tips

With busy schedules, it can be hard to sit down to dinner as a family. But, there is a good chance you can make it work with a little effort. For many of you, you can probably swing it but are so used to eating separately, you do not even think to change the routine. Maybe you will never be able to do daily dinners, but at least make an effort to pencil in one or two, at least to start.

Planning and getting those plans written down on paper is a deceptively simple, yet incredibly powerful way to keep on track with goals. Make out a list of meals for the week and make one big trip to the store and you are all set. Get your kids involved in the preparation, maybe ask them to cut the vegetables after school. If you are more motivated to cook on the weekend, make extra and freeze it to use as one of your meals during the week. Utilize prepared foods to save some time-you can get a nice roast chicken at the supermarket and all you have to worry about is putting together some healthy sides, like some brown rice or a vegetable medley. Buy ready-made sauces. Not everything has to be made from scratch to be healthy.

 

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. If you are crunched for time when it comes to preparing a healthy home-cooked meal, slow cookers can be your best friend-throw in some ingredients before work and by time you come home, you will have a delicious meal all ready to go.