Americans today spend over fifty percent of their annual food budget on food prepared outside the home – and this number keeps increasing year after year.
The research is solid. There is a direct correlation between the number of meals prepared or eaten outside of the home with a person’s risk of obesity and metabolic disease.
I’m not just talking about fast food. This includes sit-down restaurants, grab & go convenience stores, delivery meals and frozen premade meals.
We need to acknowledge that eating food prepared by a for-profit company provides us with convenience. Not health. Not decreased cost. Just convenience. Each time we make a decision to have food made for us by a company trying to make money – whether that food is served to us on a plate or in a bag or in a frozen box that needs to be unwrapped and heated up – in order to buy that convenience, we are sacrificing health – over and over again. Meal after meal.
Now of course, there are a few places that you can get really healthy food to go – things like wild caught salmon with organic roasted vegetables cooked in extra virgin olive oil, etc, etc, etc – but in those cases, we are sacrificing a significant cost rather than health. Most of us don’t part with our money that willingly very often.
Eating out for most people has become the norm. Most of us do it at least once per day. If you figure in premade meals, most of us are getting two, if not all three of our daily meals from sources other than our kitchen.
Preparing a meal at home and sitting down together to enjoy it has become a novelty for most people. A once-per-week occurrence.
If we want to be healthier – if we want our children to be healthier – if we want our communities to be healthier – we have got to eat more of our meals at home. At our kitchen table.
Cooking at home doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. These darn cooking shows have done us all a disservice – they have made cooking look so darn complicated that many of us have been intimidated out of our own kitchens. It’s actually a great business plan – if people think they can’t cook – they will continue buying food that has been made for them, right?
I challenge you to make a meal at home. Grab a few chicken breasts, rub them with olive oil and put some salt and pepper on them. Bake them in the oven until the pink is gone, then top with some marinara sauce and sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese and you have pizza chicken. Peel an orange, separate it into slices and steam some broccoli. Put it all on the table. See what your family does.
They might look at you like you have two heads, but go with it. They might whine that they would rather have Chipotle (of course they would!). They might complain that they only like chicken that is breaded (not surprising since that’s how most chicken is served nowadays – which is frightening). But chances are they will eat it.
In addition to providing them something that isn’t going to knock their health down another notch, you will save money. Yes, it will take a few minutes of your time, but it’s not like you will be slaving over the stove the entire time. Check your email while things are cooking. Fold a load of laundry. Watch something on Netflix. These are all things we find time to do anyway.
Then do it again the next night with something a little different.
Get some ground turkey, some taco seasoning and a little can of tomato paste. Chop up some lettuce, grate some cheese and throw some salsa on there and serve taco salads. Once again, they might complain that they would rather go out for Mexican food. Who wouldn’t? Having all you can eat chips and salsa, cheese dip, refillable sodas or margaritas and all that other greasy goodness is lovely – but it isn’t healthy.
Once again, serving taco salads at home will provide health. It will take a few minutes to do the work to prepare the meal – but I guarantee you that it would suck up more of your time to go out to eat. It would take more time to call in the order and drive to pick it up. And once again, it will save you money.
We have to stop prioritizing convenience over everything else. If convenience is our top priority when it comes to food, we have to accept that we are likely going to end up (now or someday) with a whole host of food-related diseases – things like obesity, high cholesterol, fatty liver, prediabetes or diabetes.
If we teach our children to prioritize convenience when it comes to food, we can’t be surprised when they too start to develop these same problems.
Just because it’s normal to eat out all the time doesn’t make it right. It makes it normal.
Think about this: thirty years ago it was normal to smoke in restaurants – to smoke on airplanes – to have a smoking lounge in the hospital. Just because it was normal didn’t make it healthy. It just made it normal.
Isn’t it time to be a little different?