The rise of fast food came alongside a global acceleration in our daily lifestyles. Today, we are tethered to our devices, working long hours and still checking emails late into the night. Many of us are commuting farther and spending lunches at our desks. Where cooking at home used to be the norm, it is now a rarity with takeout and order-in food being the primary way many people feed themselves.
As a baby growing up in suburbia, kids were not allowed to hang out in the living room for fear we would ruin the upholstery. You could describe it as an early form of staging. Slipcovers kept the dust off, and a velvet rope kept us out. The living room was a showpiece, reserved for adults, and only used when there was company.
Kitchens have gone the same way. We have space-age refrigerators, exotic granite countertops, copper pots and pans, an assortment of gizmos and gadgets. But we don’t use them.
In 2010, 50 percent of meals were eaten away from home, and 1 in 5 breakfasts is bought at McDonald’s. Even when we do eat at home, it’s not the family setting we think of in movies. Today’s family meals last less than 20 minutes and happen on average three nights a week. We have to remember that for many families, those 20 minutes are not focused. They are distracted by televisions and mobile phones, so even if we are eating together we might not mentally and emotionally be together.
Here’s why this trend needs to change and why the kitchen may be one of the biggest opportunities for wellbeing in our lives:
- Eating fast food and processed food may increase your risk of depression
- Eating foods filled with sodium, like many fast foods, can increase your risk for headaches
- These higher sodium levels can also elevate blood pressure or aggravate existing heart disorders, including congestive heart failure
- Fast food can lead to frequent insulin spikes, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- People who eat at fast-food restaurants tend to take in an extra 197 to 190 calories per day
If we flip this paradigm and instead cook more frequently at home, here are some of the benefits we can unlock:
- We can eat more nutritious foods, benefiting nearly every aspect of our health
- We can better control our portions, which means reaching (and keeping) a healthy weight
- We are more likely to feel full as we can pick foods that satiate hunger, where many fast foods can actually increase our appetites
- We can spend more time with our families, building stronger, healthier relationships with our loved ones
- We can improve our finances as cooking at home is often easier on our wallets than going out every day, which in turn can mean less stress and more resources to spend on making memories
- We can burn more calories as the act of preparing foods counts as a form of NEAT, burning more energy than it takes to order food or to sit down at a restaurant
Are you already cooking at home? What are your tips for making the kitchen a regular part of your lifestyle? I’d love to hear your stories!