With our crazy busy schedules, it is often difficult to carve out enough time to cook a nice meal the entire family can sit down and enjoy together. But making the time to have a home-cooked meal as a family is a must for the entire household’s physical and mental health.
A new study has proven that meals cooked at home, as opposed to those made in restaurants or cafeterias have fewer toxins in them. According to the study, home-cooked meals reduce per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals in the body that make people sick. PFAS chemicals are harmful to the human body and often found in fast-food and take out packaging. PFAS are a group of chemicals widely used in industries to produce stain-resistant, non-stick, waterproof products including cookware and food packaging. Livestock and other food crops may also contain PFAS when exposed to contaminated soil.
According to the study, exposure to such chemicals has been linked to a number of health risks which include cancer, immune suppression, thyroid disease, and decreased fertility. Because of this, scientists are concerned about the widespread use of PFAS chemicals. They tend to end up in our bodies because these chemicals are apparently everywhere.
The good news is that the researchers who conducted this study found that people who ate more often at home had significantly lower levels of PFAS in their bodies than those who went out to eat. The huge amount of the ingredients used in the home-cooked meals were purchased from the local grocers and less likely to be contaminated by PFAS.
A separate Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables as families who don’t eat together and those who cook at home are more likely to eat together.
Cooking and eating meals together as a family at home also helps prevent obesity. Research shows that people tend to eat less during family meals because they eat more slowly, and talk more to each other.
Cooking your meals at home not only reduces your exposure to harmful toxic chemicals and helps you get in all those nutritious veggies, but it has a powerful and beneficial mental health effect as well. Families who cook meals at home often end up eating those meals together, which strengthens their bonds and builds a healthy mental relationship with food – starting with getting enough vegetables in the diet.
Family meals also offer parents the chance to be role models. They can show their kids how to eat right and this often results in less picky eaters.
Research has also shown that kids who eat family meals have a lower chance of engaging in high-risk behaviors such as substance use, violence, and they have fewer psychological problems that could pose a risk to their mental well-being.
HOW TO MAKE THE TIME
So it’s important to cook food at home and enjoy it as a family, but how do you make the time?
Start small. Choose a less busy day of the week and dedicate that one as the day you’ll cook a meal and eat it together as a family.
I know I am guilty of stretching myself too thin; and if you’re a parent, you surely understand that time is a valuable commodity. But what I have found works for our family, is to have an abundance of fresh vegetables in the refrigerator at all times. I always have fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados (you need those healthy fats). Even if I don’t have time for a whole huge meal, I can make a chef salad with leftover meatballs or chicken from the night before. My kids love helping with this, and I let them wash the vegetables and peel the carrots or cucumbers. Eliciting help from your kids is another great way to bond and save time while teaching them how to prepare vegetables. Letting them assist you where they can (and safely!) gets them in the habit of eating healthy and nutritious food. My kids love eating the food they helped to prepare, even if they only got to peel one carrot.
What works for other families is to plan a menu and make a one-stop grocery list. You can get all of your meals planned out, and even account for using leftovers to minimize your food waste! You will likely also see a perhaps unexpected additional benefit from this approach: saving money! You will also save time by only going to the grocery store once a week. This is a time tested and a mom-approved way to benefit your health, your wallet, and give you a little extra time each week.
What are your tips and tricks to get your kids to eat better and make the time for a home-cooked meal? Share them with our readers!