Despite the busyness brought about by everyday life, more and more Americans are cooking at home than ever before.
A 2022 survey conducted by Taste of Home reports that respondents find joy in cooking, with 60% cooking at home at least five times a week.
Among the top priorities for home cooking are healthy eating through quality meals and ingredients (68%) and a more deliberate approach to meal planning (53%).
Such findings suggest that eating home-cooked meals is generally healthier and more efficient than ordering takeout, but there’s more to that.
Home cooking and meal planning can also help achieve the specific health goal of long-term weight loss — here are a few ways.
Improve nutritional quality and variety
One of the major contributors to dietary weight gain is eating ultra-processed foods, which are high in calories, unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium but low in nutrients.
In contrast, home cooking can reduce individuals’ reliance on these unhealthy foods and instead shift the focus to whole foods and fresh ingredients.
In fact, a 2020 study on Nutrients found that cooking behaviors like frequent cooking and cooking from scratch are associated with better diet quality and higher consumption of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
Meanwhile, meal planning involves a longer thought process for dietary choices, allowing individuals to adhere to nutritional guidelines and increase food variety.
This results in healthy weight loss by improving nutrition and managing caloric intake.
Boost motivation for weight loss
While you can successfully lose weight by following a nutritious, well-balanced diet, the more challenging part is trying to keep it off.
However, since cooking allows you to take control of the meals and ingredients, it serves as a sustainable approach that boosts your motivation for weight loss throughout your wellness journey.
Moreover, you can adjust your cooking to your tastes to ensure that a healthy diet works for you in the long term.
On the other hand, meal planning can also be a motivating factor by combining it with other science-backed weight loss tips like keeping a food diary.
You’ll likely find long-term success in managing your weight by habitually tracking your food intake and planning your meals and snacks from breakfast until dinner.
Practice portion control
Weight gain can also be linked to eating larger portions and thus going beyond your daily calorie budget.
But as previously mentioned, cooking and meal planning allows you to not only determine what goes into your meals and snacks but also how much is prepared and served.
Thus, you can practice portion control in multiple ways, such as using the plate method to visually apportion every meal with vegetables, lean protein like meat, dairy, and legumes, and complex carbohydrates like whole grains.
If you’re preparing your food in batches through meal prep, you can also portion out your meals throughout the week using tools like a digital scale, storage containers, and measuring cups and spoons.
Manage dietary restrictions
Adopting and sustaining a weight loss diet can also be a complex process when you have an underlying medical condition with special dietary needs or restrictions.
For instance, diabetes patients who want to lose weight must pay extra attention to their carbohydrate and sugar intake to keep their blood sugar at optimal levels.
Fortunately, both cooking and meal planning give you agency over your food intake, from ingredients to portion sizes.
Compared to dining out, where the restaurant menu limits your options, these dietary approaches allow you to meet your weight goals while keeping your overall health and wellness in mind.
Stress has also been associated with weight gain, mainly due to elevated cortisol levels slowing down your metabolism and increasing your cravings for sugars and fats.
So, managing your stress levels is crucial when you’re on a weight loss journey.
Cooking can help you in this regard, as you can follow your cravings while still sticking to your diet by preparing healthy alternatives to your favorite foods.
For example, beef brisket can be substituted with leaner yet still satisfying chicken thighs, then slow-cooked for a healthier method of food preparation.
Additionally, planning and preparing your meals in advance can relieve the daily stress of deciding where and what to eat.
In summary, cooking and meal planning help you lose weight successfully by improving your nutrition, stress levels, and motivation for a healthy lifestyle.
Feel free to explore the rest of the articles here at My Conscious Eating for cooking tips and healthy recipes.
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