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Is cooking at home harming your health?

Is Cooking At Home Helping or Harming Your Health?

You’ve probably been told before to prepare meals at home instead of dining at a restaurant in order to meet your health goals. You’ve probably even been told that by me.

However, a recent study completed by researchers from Rush University in Chicago suggests something surprising: That middle-aged women who cooked at home more frequently were actually more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome, putting them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Say what!?

I know, I was surprised, too.

We should remember that there are limitations to this study, including the fact that the participants were self-reporting (people are notoriously unreliable). In addition, the amount of time they spent cooking was reported, but the subjects didn’t specifically discuss what it was they prepared (coulda been baked sweet potatoes, coulda been baked Alaska).

Still, it’s worth talking about how to make sure cooking at home is doing your body good.

Cook at home more often…but easy on the baking. Are you preparing a quinoa, broccoli, and chickpea dish? Good for you. Are you baking double caramel brownies with butterscotch glaze and dark chocolate chunks? Sounds delicious, but make sure you take the bulk of them to friends, family, or only bake such special treats on occasions worthy of such decadence. (Just so you know, I am all about eating a variety of foods every day, including treats, but if you’re going to eat something frequently, think about making it 70% dark chocolate.)

Just because you cooked it yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice portion control. You’re super proud of making that complicated dish with the whole chicken and the herbs from your garden and the lemon and the roasted red peppers-good job! But…make sure you practice portion control. You actually don’t need a quart of mashed potatoes to make this meal complete. Also, try eating on a 9 or 10 inch plate, instead of a 12 inch one, and serve yourself a portion and then put away the leftovers before eating, that way you really have to think about giving yourself seconds.

Cooking at home doesn’t mean making mac and cheese from a box and calling it good. There’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese from a box (especially if you can find a whole wheat variety), but when you’re being encouraged to cook at home, generally the idea is to cut down on processed stuff and increase fruits and veggies. Make sure your meal is on the healthier side by adding roasted broccoli and some protein on the side (my husband loves lean ground turkey in his mac and cheese).

Pay attention to sugar, fat, and salt content. If you decide that eating at home automatically means you’re eating healthier, tread carefully. Sure, studies show the average restaurant meal hovers around 1100 calories, so you’re bound to eat fewer of those pesky buggers if you eat at home, but make sure you’re not drowning your veggies in butter and salt or eating a huge dessert because you prepared your meal at home and “saved calories.”

Modify recipes when necessary. Let’s say your grandmother made this amazing lasagna with approximately 43 pounds of cheese. You loooooove this lasagna and want to make it now that you’re cooking at home more frequently. Well, option one is to make the lasagna as the original recipe is written and eat only a small portion of it and fill the rest of your plate with tons and tons of salad. The other option is to see what you can do to lighten it up. Reduced fat cheese? Less cheese, but more veggies? You can often alter recipes while still maintaining the integrity of the original dish.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.