when you cook for yourself at home, you have the ability to control how much of what to add to the dish

In Helena for the holidays, my family and I decided to eat breakfast at a café one morning.  The café holds only a handful of people and we were seated at a table where I could see through to the kitchen and watch the cook prepare the meals.  I’ve had years of food service experience, so not much about restaurant food preparation shocks me, but I will admit I was surprised as I watched the cook prepare a single order of egg scramble with sausage and cheese and add literally handfuls of shredded cheese to the dish meant for one person.  It was a huge, towering pile of cheese on the grill until it melted into the eggs, and it was a vivid reminder that restaurant meals are not what you typically cook for yourself at home.   Not to say that all restaurant meals are bad for you, or that all home cooked meals are good.  However, when you cook for yourself at home, you have the ability to control how much of what to add to the dish, and chances are, most people would add only a small fraction of the cheese that I saw added if they were making egg scramble at home.

How 'bout a little egg with my cheese.
How ’bout a little egg with my cheese.

Coincidentally, two days after that café experience, the USDA came out with a report looking at the nutritional quality of food prepared at home versus food prepared away from home from 1977-2008.  Not surprisingly, researchers found that food prepared at restaurants (or fast food, etc.) was significantly higher in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, while being lower in fiber.   In addition, the report showed that Americans now get a larger proportion of their calories from food prepared outside of the home – from 17.7% of total calories in 1977 to 31.6% in 2008.  More and more of our meals are coming from restaurants rather than being cooked at home, and nutritionally, these meals are not as good for us.

These kinds of statistics are part of the motivation behind the Montana Meals Monthly Challenge for January:  Cook 4 new healthy recipes at home this month.  Aim for one each week.

If you don’t consider yourself a cook, that’s ok.  Your recipe doesn’t need to be anything fancy or difficult.  It just needs to be prepared at home.  Ask a friend or a family member to help you, or click here for a list of on-line resources.   Look for recipes that feature vegetables, whole grains, or lean protein, and that utilize moderate amounts of plant-based oils or low-fat dairy.

If you do consider yourself a cook, that’s great!  But it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and keep making the same family favorites, so switch it up a little this month and surprise your family and/or yourself with a new recipe that is good for you, and hopefully, that tastes great as well.

Click the link below to download a simple Log sheet to record your four meals, then send it in to wellness@montana.edu, and you’ll be entered in our January Challenge drawing!


One thought on “Home Cookin’ vs Eating Out

  1. As a provider of healthy meals that we deliver to people at home, I am in full agreement with your assertions. In most cases, people just don’t know what they’re getting in restaurants. Learning to prepare meals at home is not all that hard, even for “non-cooks.” Just a few basic recipes can be a start toward eating healthier meals at home.

    Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.