“The Future of Health is a Scene from the Past”
By: Matt Johnson, President of On Target Living
Family dinners are dying and our health is going downhill with it. We are all busy individuals. Soccer practice, work meetings, social events, and the convenience of going out are causing family dinners at home to become rarer. The food choices we make out of convenience or while we are on the go also tend to be less healthy. I have heard it wasn’t that long ago when you only had a couple options when it came to eating out, and the “normal” was eating at home. I am not old enough to remember what it was like to NOT have every option of food on every corner – Asian, Greek, Mexican, Italian, American, Sushi, etc. One of the great things I remember as a kid and growing up was eating home-cooked meals with my family. It seemed normal to make dinner at home and have the family gather to talk about their day. While my family did this almost every night, my friends were going out to eat or eating on their own. It is too easy to buy pre-packaged foods and rely on a restaurant for dinner. Because of this, we are not experiencing some of the amazing benefits that a healthy, homemade family meal can have.
Cooking Should Be Cool and Fun
When my twin sister Kristen and I decided to write our book “Target to Table,” a big motivator was to teach people how to cook healthy food. Even more so, we wanted to show that cooking can be cool and exciting. We all have to eat – it is a basic need for human survival. Why not learn how to cook our own food and make cooking a fun and exciting experience? I was taught at a young age how to cook. It wasn’t through formal training, but by watching my mom cook our family suppers. My mom always encouraged me to help her cook, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She made it fun, exciting, and interactive. Because of this, I have always enjoyed cooking since I was a kid. My sister and I actually made family dinner once a week by the time we were 8 years old! Cooking alongside your parent, other family member, spouse, or friend can make cooking--a fun and wonderful experience while creating a closer bond. Working together and coming up with a great tasting meal as the finished product is an awesome feeling. Cooking for yourself and others can also be extremely rewarding. You get a sense of satisfaction after making your own home-cooked, delicious meal. Seeing that others enjoy your meal also makes you feel good.
I think the art of cooking is dying for the majority of people due to the convenience of grabbing food on the go or going out to eat. We should try our best to steer away from pre-packaged foods and limit the amount of times we eat out. We should all try to make it a priority to cook and eat at home with fresh, healthy food. Learn how to cook, teach your favorite people how to cook, and have fun while doing so!
No Plain Baked Potato?
A major concern with not eating at home is quality control. I don’t mean who can cook the best; I mean the quality of ingredients. The cheaper a restaurant can make a dish, the more money they make – the cheaper the ingredients, the bigger the profit. When I started to travel for work and depended on eating out, my dad taught me a valuable lesson: ask if they have a plain baked potato. He did this for two reasons. First, a plain baked potato is one of the cleanest and most satisfying foods you can consume. Second, it will tell you if the restaurant uses real potatoes for the rest of their dishes. I won’t say any names of hotels/restaurants, but in my experience only 30% of them use real potatoes for their dishes. As a guest of a restaurant, you can’t control what ingredients are used in that specific kitchen. Quality is definitely more controllable at home. You are able to control the ingredients and you know exactly what you are eating. Here is a tip for when you do eat out: ask about their ingredients and choose a dish that uses real, fresh food. This way you can control the quality and your health.
Is That Plate Regulation Size or What?
If you follow the On Target Living lifestyle then you are aware of the seven steps in EAT 101.
The sixth step is quantity and calories. For the most part, counting calories is a waste of time and energy if you are following the first five steps. This isn’t the case while eating out. We are much more likely to consume more calories at a restaurant than at home. According to “8 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner,” a Health.com article, “The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal.” My guess is that larger portion sizes and larger plate sizes in restaurants are contributing to higher calories. The bigger the plate and portion size, the higher the calories. The plates that most restaurants use are twice the size of your dishes at home. Restaurants know the more food they place on your plate the better you think your value is. Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say, “I love this restaurant because the portion size is big and it is so cheap!?”
It doesn’t cost that much more for the restaurant to put a couple more cups of pasta on your plate if you think you are getting more value. This is a big reason most people over consume while at a restaurant. The above Health.com article states, “Studies show that when we are presented with more food, we eat more food, possibly leading to our expanding waistlines.” We are not able to control the portions at restaurants and portion sizes are continuing to grow. Look at this picture of an average meal 20 years ago to now, showing the increase in plate size, portion size, and calories:
Photo courtesy of evewaspartiallyright.blogspot.com
As the size of our dinner plates continue to get bigger and bigger, the calories continue to grow. Take a look at this graphic depicting the growing size of dinner plates from the 1960’s to 2009:
Photo courtesy of www.bariatriccookery.com
If we choose to eat out, we should be conscious about making healthy food decisions and trying our best to limit our portion sizes so that the calories we are consuming aren’t out of control.
Mental Health and Happiness
Talking to humans is a really amazing idea. It seems like we now spend more time looking at a screen than we do having conversations with actual people. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Facebook and all of a sudden you are looking at your sister’s boyfriend’s best friend’s cousin’s page? Then you stop and think, “What am I doing?!” We all seem to make time for our electronics throughout the day but spending time as a family together at the dinner table should be something that we really make and find time for. If you really want optimal health, communication is a basic element. Communication with spouses, kids, friends, and family are sometimes overlooked when it comes to health. The Health.com article “8 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner” says, “Studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder.” We can spend days talking about diet and exercise when it comes to health, but sometimes simple things like sharing your thoughts/feelings and taking a break from electronics can be the secret recipe for optimal health. Connecting with our children, spouse, and other family members is something we should place higher value on--rather than connecting with our electronic devices. Family dinner presents the perfect opportunity to connect with loved ones and create a closer bond. I continue to make eating meals at the dinner table (not in front of the TV) a huge priority because of the great benefits of the food, but mostly the time to connect with my wife, Holly, without any distractions. It allows us time to communicate and reconnect after a day at work. This is a habit that I plan to pass down from generation to generation in my family.
Making the Effort
We are all busy in life, but we should make it a priority to eat dinner at the table with our family. Gathering for a family mealtime allows us to create a great tasting, healthy meal in which we can control the quality of our ingredients and our portion sizes. We save money by creating our own homemade meals rather than eating out. Family supper also gives us time to communicate and connect with our family members. While eating around the table with our family members seems like a simple idea, it is becoming more difficult with everyone’s busy schedules and life’s fast pace. However, making the time for family dinner and making it a priority is something that your children and/or spouse will be thankful for. Your own health and happiness will benefit as well. It’s a win-win. So as fall speeds up, we should focus on slowing down to stop and make our favorite healthy dish and call the family around the table.
Need some inspiration to cook more meals at home? Click here.