In our culture, eating healthy is hard. Though they’re getting a bit better, restaurants continue to encourage us to eat the fattiest, sweetest, saltiest things under the sun. Fast food makes it easy to grab a bite on the go – and easy to grow fat and unhealthy. And snacks and sodas are available everywhere, from work cafeterias to vending machines.

Here’s one simple thing that you can do to improve your health: start cooking. Here’s what to do, and why.

Cooking and Your Health

How to eat healthy at home

Cooking and eating at home is healthiest when done right. But even if you’re not perfect about it, you can bet that you’ll most often fare better when you cook than you would at a restaurant. Home-cooked meals are likely to be easier on the butter, salt, and other stuff that restaurants sling around with impunity. And your portions may make more sense for you than the ones at the local steakhouse, too!

Of course, eating well instead of just better requires a bit more commitment. Start with your pantry. What do you have? Try to avoid processed foods and invest in some nice veggies. Stick to the edges of the supermarket – where you’ll find meats, cheeses, vegetables, and other staples – and steer clear of the aisles, where you’ll find processed foods and unhealthy alternatives.

Next, look at your kitchen appliances. How are we going to use these things? Try focusing on things you cook in the oven or on the stovetop, rather than in the microwave. Switch up how you prepare vegetables – different nutrients are unlocked with different cooking methods (and some are only available in raw vegetables). Of course, you’ll want to remember that the healthiest veggies are the ones you actually eat. So if steaming your veggies will cause you to give up and eat Pop-Tarts, go ahead and bake your veggies instead.

Finally, let’s talk serving. Restaurants like to fill your plate with food, giving you over-the-top serving sizes that will make you fill your pants the way your meal fills the plate. Go with something more modest. If you really want to fill the plate, use smaller plates!

The benefits of cooking at home

If you follow the tips above, you’ll cut some pounds from your waistline. Smaller portions and fewer unhealthy options mean that home cooking will get you a little slimmer and trimmer than restaurant food will. But that’s not all!

Home cooking is also good for your health. That means dental health, since you’ll be eating fewer sweets and cavity-causing desserts. It also means overall health, which isn’t the same as weight. Being in shape is only one part of your overall health: your body also cares about nutrients big and small. Meals cooked from whole foods will keep you healthy in a way that McDonald’s never can. So skip the restaurant and the drive-through next time, and prepare a meal at home!

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