I was recently on the subway in New York City, and I saw an ad for a popular food delivery service that read “Order food like a New Yorker”. I thought to myself, “Is ordering food something that defines a New Yorker now?” Nowadays, most people do not cook and there is lack of perceived value in preparing a meal. Cooking seems like a task that we are all “supposed to do”, but many people don’t know why or how to start. There are many benefits to cooking, and opening up that food delivery app should be a last resort. Here are 5 reasons to ditch the delivery and break out the pots and pans tonight:
1) Health. There is no doubt that cooking results in a healthier meal than most restaurant meals. Unless you’re at a health food restaurant, chefs are more concerned with making the food taste good than the nutritional value. Many foods are prepared with high fat ingredients like butter and cream. Large amounts of salt or sugar are added to make the foods tasty. Even foods that seem healthy may be packed with hidden calories. For example, at Applebee’s, the Chicken and Shrimp Tequila Tango is a dish composed of grilled chicken, shrimp, avocado sauce, rice, and sautéed peppers. Surprisingly, this dish packs 1190 calories, which is more than half the recommended amount of daily calories for most adults! This meal could easily be recreated at home with smaller portions and less added fat, and the outcome would undoubtedly contain less calories.
2) Where does our time go? Any parent will agree that cooking a meal takes time. Time is valuable, and cooking is often not a top priority for busy parents. Have you ever really considered where the time goes? Popular food author Michael Pollan once commented that, of the time saved from ordering fast food, much of that is now spent “working, commuting to work, surfing the Internet, and, perhaps most curiously of all, watching other people cook on television.” It is understandable that many people want to unwind and relax after a long day at work rather than spend an hour in the kitchen. The key to finding time to cook is planning ahead. Spend some time on Saturday or Sunday looking up exciting recipes. Bring 3 recipes to the grocery store, buy only those ingredients, and do the prep work as soon as you get home. Make all of the recipes right then and freeze things that you plan to eat later in the week. Or, just assemble all of the ingredients so you can easily throw them together when you are ready. You will be shocked by how quickly you can serve up a delicious meal on a weeknight! See our tips on meal planning with kids.
3) You may actually enjoy cooking! Everyone is really busy, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a hobby. People are often trying to find time to read a good book, pick up a musical instrument, spend more time outdoors, etc. Cooking is a great hobby because it allows you to create something that you and your family will enjoy. One of my favorite things to do is pull up a new recipe on my iPad, turn on some music, and spend an hour in the kitchen creating an interesting, healthy, and delicious dish. Try turning the act of cooking into a hobby, and you may be pleasantly surprised!
4) Make an impact on your children with food. When I was a kid, the word “take-out” was not part of my vocabulary. My mom cooked for us almost every night. This was so much the case that when I had friends over to play, we would often take breaks to visit “Karen’s Diner”. This is what we called the kitchen in my house. The memories of my childhood are flooded with instances of my mom cooking something delicious for the family. When I went off to college, I decided that cooking for myself was part of becoming an “adult”. My mom never really taught me how to cook, but I just knew how to prepare food from watching her all those years. I attribute my interest in food, cooking, and ultimately choosing to become a registered dietitian to my mom. Check out these age based cooking tips, tasty recipes and fun activities to get kids in the kitchen.
5) It’s better for your wallet, and the planet! Groceries seem like they are always increasing in price, especially when you are feeding a family. Ordering a pizza may seem like a thrifty option, but consider how much it would cost to make the same pizza at home. Whole grain pizza dough can be purchased almost anywhere for less than $2. A jar of sauce and a bag of cheese cost a few dollars each. Spend an extra dollar or two to buy peppers, onions, and mushrooms to top your pizza. The outcome is a delicious version of a take-out meal that will be healthier and less expensive than fast food pizza. Not to mention that making this meal at home reduces our carbon footprint. There is no wasted pizza delivery box, no plastic utensils, and no gas used for delivery. Try comparing the total price of 2 homemade meals and 2 take-out meals. I think you will be amazed by how much money you save! Get more tips to save money by reducing food waste.
Natalie Rizzo is a Master of Science candidate in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Teachers College, Columbia University. While in school, Natalie works for Veggiecation, where she conducts healthy kids cooking classes and teaches nutrition education to children. Natalie is also passionate about living an active lifestyle, and she works for a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). Follow Natalie on Twitter @Nutritionalanat