3 Reasons to Cook at Home

By JoAnn Ridout, MPH, RD, LD
May 24, 2013


Michael Pollan, popular food writer and author of four New York Times bestsellers, is often asked, “What is the most important thing we could do as a family to improve our general health and well-being?” This is an excellent question and one that Mr. Pollan can answer in one simple word…cook.

Pollan has addressed this in his most recent book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation—in which he discusses in detail the benefits of cooking at home. Pollan states, “It will come as no surprise that the decline in home cooking closely tracks the rise in obesity and all the chronic diseases linked to diet.”

I agree with Pollan and want to share what I believe are the top three reasons to cook at home.

1. Know what’s in your food

Cooking at home is best simply because you know what’s in your food. Do you know the ingredients in all the foods you eat? If you eat a lot of fast foods, processed snacks or boxed meals from the grocery store, you may not realize how many food additives and extra ingredients are in these products and how they affect your health. Even if you’re eating at a restaurant where a plated meal is served, you likely don’t know the type of fats and preservatives that are used to cook the food or are added to marinades or sauces.

The Weight & Wellness way of eating is free of man-made fats, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and other known additives and chemicals. Preparing your meals at home, being mindful to avoid these unhealthy ingredients and using real foods, will ensure you are eating well.  

2. Brings your family together

Many people in the world today have grown up lacking cooking skills. Most men and women work outside the home and are busy juggling multiple tasks each day. For some people, cooking is not something they can imagine adding on to their already busy days. Pollan observes, “In the same way the stew pot blends a great many things together…it brings the family together as well.”

But you don’t need to slave over a stew pot all day to have a nice family meal. There are plenty of quick and easy ways to cook at home. One day a week, set a few hours aside to make your own home-cooked “fast food.“ Try cooking my two favorite, easy, recipes: Wild Rice Meatballs and Chili. Or try the kid-friendly Healthy Chicken Nuggets and Sweet Potato Wedges. Another “fast food” idea is a rotisserie chicken already prepared from the grocery store. Just be sure it doesn’t have added antibiotics, hormones, or MSG. Add steamed broccoli and wild rice (you can make the rice ahead of time) and you’re done.

3. Gives more to the farmers, less to corporation

Cooking at home with real foods helps give more of your food dollars back to the farmers who raised the plants and animals. Pollan points out “80% of the cost of food eaten in the home goes to someone other than the farmer...This is a problem—for the health of our bodies, our families, our communities, and our land.”    

Shopping at farmers markets, co-ops, or being a part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm helps to get more of the food dollar back to the local farmers. Helping farmers who are producing organic crops and grass-fed meats also can help improve your own health and longevity.

Discover a new passion...Cooking!
Start small with these simple steps

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the idea of cooking at home? Maybe you rarely or never cook at home right now. Well, never fear, there are many simple things you can start doing this week to change your habits. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Try a new, easy recipe from our website.
  2. Set aside a few hours each week and make a double batch of recipes to enjoy for several meals throughout the week.
  3. Take a cooking class.
  4. Find your local farmers market. Summer is just around the corner and the perfect time to get local, fresh produce and sometimes even meat and eggs.
  5. Find a CSA or co-op near you.
  6. Take a class at or meet with a nutrition counselor at Nutritional Weight & Wellness to get some new ideas.

Remember, we are here to help and to support you every step of the way in making the Weight & Wellness way of eating a way of life!

About the author

JoAnn has always appreciated the value of good nutrition because diabetes and cancer run in her family. Not only does JoAnn understand chronic diseases, but also she has taken on challenging and complex health conditions when she worked as a registered dietitian at Courage Center for 25 years. JoAnn brings extensive experience, along with compassion and understanding to your health concerns. JoAnn graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of science in nutrition and dietetics and a master of science in public health. As a registered dietitian and nutrition educator, she has experience in therapeutic nutrition counseling, weight management, and nutrition education.

View all posts by JoAnn Ridout, MPH, RD, LD

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