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How to Improve Your Home Cooking and Meal Planning

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 better and more efficient than ordering takeout, but there’s more to that.

Home cooking and meal planning can also help achieve other goals — here are a few ways.

Improve nutritional quality and variety

Home cooking can reduce individuals’ reliance on poor 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 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.

Boost motivation

While you can successfully feel better 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 throughout your wellness journey.

On the other hand, meal planning can also be a motivating factor by combining it with other science-backed tips like keeping a food diary.

You’ll likely find long-term success by habitually tracking your food intake and planning your meals and snacks from breakfast until dinner.

Practice portion control

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 diet can also be a complex process when you have an underlying medical condition with special dietary needs or restrictions.

For instance, diabetes patients 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 goals while keeping your overall wellness in mind.

Relieve stress

Stress relieved when cooking

Stress has also been associated with 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.

Cooking can help you in this regard, as you can follow your cravings while still sticking to your diet by preparing alternatives to your favorite foods.

For example, beef brisket can be substituted with leaner yet still satisfying chicken thighs, then slow-cooked for a better 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 your success by improving your nutrition, stress levels, and motivation for an improved lifestyle.

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