one week eating at home
One of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and your family is to cook for them. Not mac and cheese cooking, either. I’m talking cutting up the meat, chopping the vegetables, seasoning the dish, and serving it up hot.
Unfortunately, one hallmark of modern day living is that people are not cooking, and it’s taking a toll on our health and waistlines.
A recent study by the USDA, entitled The Impact of Food Away From Home on Adult Diet Quality, looked at how food made at home vs food eaten at restaurants effected us. While it’s easy to see that restaurant foods, and fast foods in particular, are often not the healthiest choices, some of the specifics were surprising to many people.
Let’s take a look at some of the things the study found.
Each meal eaten out
- increases calorie intake by approximately 134 calories over a meal eaten at home.
- decreases dietary quality by two points on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), enough to drop the consumer from ‘fair; to ‘poor’ on the HEI.
- reduces fruit and vegetable serving consumption by over 22%
- reduces whole fruit consumption by over 32%
- reduces consumption of dark green and orange vegetables by 31%
One point that we found particularly interesting was that even when dieters thought they were being careful with their other meals, even a single fast food meal per day bumped the whole day’s calories up by 205-350 calories. Keep in mind that the one (yes, just one) meal eaten out only averaged 134 more calories; the rest of those calories came from increasing calories during other meals and snacks. Interesting…
What is that single meal doing to you, your appetite, and your brain? What would happen if two or three of your meals were eaten out instead of just the one?
From waistline to wallet
Today, unlike any other period in our history, more meals are being eaten out than ever; Americans are spending up to 42% of their food dollars on food eaten away from the home, and the average meal eaten out of the home uses 60% of a family’s food budget for the entire day! 60% of your food budget for just one meal? That’s a lot of eating out, and it’s taking it’s toll on our health, waistlines, and wallets.
The solution is really as simple as you’d imagine: cook and eat at home.
Your mission is to dedicate one week to eating only food that you’ve prepared at home. In order to prepare, here are some things to consider.
- Use cookbooks if you need ideas. We love Well Fed, by Melissa Joulwan
- Remember your lunches at work or school need to be packed, too.
- Tell the family and get them onboard (it’s just one week, right?).
- Stick to the spirit of the mission and don’t look for loopholes (a jar of salsa is fine, frozen dinners are not)
- Remember to shop ahead and buy enough food (you can’t ‘drive-thru’ on the way home just because you’re out of fresh food).
- Make your menu in advance.
- Count the meals. Think ahead. Plan ahead. Shop ahead.
Planners plan, doers do
You might need a day or two to prepare yourself for this one, but it should be simple to start today if you really want to.
- Go to the store on the way home, buy something simple to prepare at home, like chicken and veggies.
- Cook the food.
- While you are eating with the family, get out a sheet of paper and plan out the meals for the next seven days with them.
- Simple, and you get to start right away.
“If you’re going to do the ‘three apples a day diet’ and only buy a dozen apples, you’re in trouble on day five.” – Dan John
…and let us know how it goes!
Todd, Jessica E., Lisa Mancino, and Biing-Hwan Lin. The Impact of Food Away From Home on Adult Diet Quality, ERR-90, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2010. uhs.berkeley.edu/Facstaff/pdf/healthmatters/FoodAwayFromHome.pdf