We never found the “weapons of mass destruction”, but unfortunately the “weapons of mass expansion” are ubiquitous in our society. Fast food eateries and restaurants are everywhere and, according to surveys, people are eating at them more than ever. Changing lifestyles account for much of this increase. For example:
- Both husband and wife working.
- Trying to fit as much into our day as possible (work, extracurricular activities).
- Multi-tasking became a new buzzword for a reason. We try to do more by doing several things simultaneously.
- Convenience. It takes time and effort to prepare a meal, and then cleanup afterward. We just don’t have the time and energy when we get home from work, not to mention if we must then take the kids to soccer, dance, etc.
- The skills and knowledge are gone. According to a survey reported in the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter in December 2011, 28% of Americans don’t know how to cook.
There are several reasons why the increase in eating out should be cause for some concern:
- Studies show that people eating out consume more fat and calories, and that eating just one meal per week away from home equals two pounds of weight gain per year.
- It is more tempting to make unhealthy choices when they are right in front of you, readily available and emanating all those sensory cues.
- Restaurants encourage appetizers, desserts, and caloric drinks to increase sales, making us more prone to over-imbibe.
- How about the bread/chip basket that’s put in front of you while you’re waiting for your meal? May as well eat it right? After all it’s free with the meal and you’re hungry. Consider that the average basket contains 1,000 calories. So if you split one with a friend and eat only half, you’ve still packed away 500 calories – a meal before your meal!
There are also several reasons why we should eat at home more often:
- Studies show that children do better in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and are less likely to become overweight if they eat at least three meals at home each week.
- Eating together allows families to “catch up” with what’s going on in each other’s’ lives. Problems children are having at school are more likely to be revealed – difficulty with school work, being bullied or just “growing pains.” Just don’t use these occasions as opportunities to chastise or confront a child about something, or she/he may develop negative associations with mealtime.
- Eating together can fill emotional voids that would otherwise go unfulfilled.
Even if you don’t have time to prepare a meal at home, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat at home. Purchase a healthy meal to go, and then bring it home for the family. You can also prepare meals ahead of time; maybe during the weekend when you have more time. Meals are then ready to “heat and eat” during the week. And you’ll still derive all the benefits of eating together!