Dining out for a meal at a restaurant is a delicious and fun experience. For some though, it is not always the best choice for managing the waist line. Did you know that cooking at home can help with weight loss and make a difference in your overall health results? But how, you ask? Check out the 5 key reasons you should consider cooking meals at home when you want to shed the extra kilos. We have included some healthy hacks to make it easy for you too.

  1. HIGHER CONSUMPTION OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES We are most likely to carry a few extra kilos when we do not hit out daily target of fruit and vegetables. A recent study has shown that people who eat meals prepared away from home more often, have higher BMIs (Body Mass Index) and percentage of body fat, and eat less fruit and vegetables than recommended in a healthy eating plan. Aim for 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day. A single serving of vegetables is a cup of salad or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. A single serving of fruit is 1 medium piece of something like an apple or banana or 2 small pieces of something like a kiwi fruit or apricots. HEALTHY HACK—Fill half of your plate with veggies that are low in starch such as baby spinach, rocket, broccoli, celery, tomato, capsicum and zucchini to help increase your vegetable intake and fill you up with healthy fiber. Low FODMAP ferments can also spice things up and make a great side dish or addition to salads and cooked veg.
  2. LESS ADDED KILOJOULES Did you know that many restaurant, takeaway and café meals are much higher in added sugar, salt and fat than the meals we prepare at home? Many of these establishments use fully prepared and semi-prepared foods as the base to much of what is served. This processing requires artificial colours, additives and preservatives in addition to higher levels of sugar, salt and fat to maintain freshness and flavour. Extra sugar and fat also means extra kilojoules, making weight management even more of a challenge. We do need some healthy fats in our diets. At home, fat types and amounts can be controlled along with sugar, salt, additives and preservatives, leaving you in the driver’s seat of your weight loss and health journey. Recent research indicates that high fat and high sugar diets can reduce the variety of healthy bacteria in our gut. Whilst this research is still emerging, it seems that an increased variety of gut bacteria is necessary to stabilize and manage weight. HEALTHY HACK—Include moderate amounts of healthy fats from things such as nuts, seeds, avocado olive oil and fish.
  3. MORE CONTROL OVER PORTIONS Cooking at home allows us to manage portion size more easily and accurately. Most of us have experienced sitting down to a meal at a café and being awed by the sheer enormity of it. Sandwiches that no mere mortal could fit their mouths around, not even Mick Jagger, beg us to dance with the devil and try to eat it all in one sitting. Many of us feel guilty and use excuses like “I don’t want to waste it.” Some of my male report it feels like it is a point of manhood to eat every scrap on the plate. Even when we order healthy items from the menu, the portions can often exceed our personal portion requirements, making weight management difficult. HEALTHY HACK—As a general guide, use your hand to help work out your personal portion requirements. Approximately 1 palm sized portion of meat, 1 fist of grains or starchy vegetables and 2 cupped hands of salad or low starch veggies will fit the bill. Please remember that some individuals may require more or less, depending on activity levels and body size.

With the frequency of food intolerances on the rise, taking these into account is important, and sometimes a matter of life or death. Eating at home makes it much easier to monitor and manage food intolerances, as you know exactly what goes into each delicious morsel of food. This in turn can positively reflect in our weight management, as eating foods we do not tolerate well can be a barrier to losing weight, for a myriad of reasons.

HEALTHY HACK—If you suspect that you, family member or friend has an intolerance, get in touch with as Accredited Practicing Dietitian to help you figure it out. A dietitian can also help you maintain as much variety in your diet as possible, while avoiding foods that make you feel uncomfortable.

  1. GIVES YOU MORE TIME When you are organised and have all the ingredients you need on hand and ready to go, a healthy meal can be on the table in as little as 10 minutes. In the great culinary tradition, the term is called Mise en place (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]). Mise en Place is a French culinary phrase which means "everything in its place." It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used ensure that meals can be quickly and easily prepared when they are ordered by a guest at a restaurant. This practice of being prepared is also essential to ensure your success at home. It saves the last-minute decision making of what to eat or “too hard” paving the way for us to choose the easy take away option. Take away food also takes time, between the driving to get it, the ordering and the wait time. This amount of time could be an hour or more. Even just freeing up an extra 20 minutes could be the difference in liberating time for a walk or some other physical activity. This increased activity can also play a significant role in weight management.

HEALTHY HACK—Plan meals for the week ahead of time so that trips to the shops are limited to once or twice a week. Being organised makes healthy foods choices quick and easy, reducing stress and making weight management much easier.