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Compare the statistic: 68% are overweight in the US compared with only 9% in Italy, which has one of the greatest cuisines in the world. How is this possible, you might ask? It’s a question of habits and attitudes to food, and what is being eaten – now commonly referred to as the Mediterranean diet. This diet is comprised of small portions of lots of different fresh foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, with small portions a couple of times a week of fish, cheese, poultry and red meat.
Their pizza is thin-crust, not deep pan or stuffed, and loaded with vegetables and a small amount of skim milk cheese – not tons of pepperoni with double cheese. Above all, the food is fresh and home cooked, not mass-produced.
One of the most common types of emotional eating is stress eating. When the person is under stress, their response is to reach for food almost mindlessly. Of course, all of us lead fairly stressful lives, so you can just imagine how that person can start packing on the pounds in only a short time if they reach for a donut, candy, soda, or other empty calories every time things get tough at work or school.
Most people will agree that they really enjoy food. In particular, a well-prepared meal eaten in a leisurely manner can be one of life’s best and even most romantic experiences. Several courses stretching out in a relaxed atmosphere can create an emotional state of happiness, with a focus on savoring the moment as well.
Italians eat at the table as a family almost every night and take about two hours to consume their food and wine. Some nations even have a two-hour lunch break so they can go home and eat with their family and even have a “siesta”, a little sleep, so they will be refreshed and be able to work well for the rest of the day.
It is great to want to get together with family and friends to enjoy a meal, provided it is a healthy one. However, in the US, we tend to overindulge. One study showed that at a Thanksgiving gathering, several people ate more than 1,000 calories in snacks, appetizers and alcohol before they ever even sat down at the table for their dinner. The woman who consumed 1,300 calories to start with ended up eating a total of nearly 5,000 calories in one single meal. Eating 2,000 excess calories equals one pound of weight gain. You have to burn 3,500 to lose one pound.
Fortunately, many menus are starting to list calorie counts. Your favorite fast food and family restaurants should also list them at their website, so you can know before you go. You might be surprised to find that what you believe to be healthy, such as the filet of fish sandwich, or a salad, actually has more calories and fat in it than an entire Happy Meal.
One other way to make the most of eating out if you do plan to visit a restaurant is to order only dishes that you can’t make yourself. Pasta and egg dishes are all cheap and easy to make, so look for something different. Divide up your meal into one small portion and have your server give you a doggie bag for the rest. Then parcel it up into TV-style dinners for a treat you can enjoy in the future. By eating mindfully, you can save both calories and cash.
Once of the nice things about restaurant meals is trying new recipes. But cooking isn’t that hard. Anyone can read a recipe. Let’s look at some of the main benefits of cooking at home in the next section.
THE BENEFITS OF COOKING AT HOME
There are many benefits to cooking at home rather than eating out or hitting the speed dial button for the local pizzeria yet again. Here are 10 of the main ones.
1. Saving Money
This is the main reason to cook at home. You’re in control of what you shop for and spend. Make the most of store sales and coupons. Practice portion control and cook, make and freeze meals so you always have something on hand in case you need “fast food”.
2. Knowing Exactly What’s in the Food You’re Eating
Cooking yourself from scratch means you always know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating. If anyone in your family has allergies, this can literally be a lifesaver. If you have health issues like high blood pressure or migraine headaches, steering clear of salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a common meat tenderizer and flavor enhancer, can help.
3. A Balanced Diet
Research has shown that people who cook at home tend to consume fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who don’t cook.
4. Being an Educated “Consumer”
Learning more about food, nutrition and calorie counts with the help of healthy recipes and a good food database will help you eat in a healthier manner.
5. Staying Heart Healthy
We are what we eat, so a balanced diet full of nutrients is one of the best ways to stay healthy and slim. Many medical conditions are associated with obesity, including heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to a range of serious health issues, including cardiovascular ones. Cooking yourself can help keep you heart-smart.
6. Slow Food, Not Fast Food
Eating more slowly means you will eat less and feel full even on a smaller amount of food. As mentioned earlier, this is because it takes the stomach about 20 minutes to register that it is full. If you’re famished, eat one ounce of nuts 30 minutes before dinner (if you’re not allergic).
Studies have shown that the fat and fiber will fill you up and make you feel satisfied on 30% less than the amount of food you usually eat.
7. Go for Filling Foods Low in Calories and Cost
Ever notice how stuffed you feel after a restaurant meal in which you started off with soup and a salad? These are cheap foods full of water and fiber. As long as they don’t have a cream base and you don’t use creamy dressing, you can make healthy homemade soups and salads that will make you feel full by the time you ever get to the entrée.
Or try the Italian style of eating. Have the salad at the end of the meal – it will stop you from continuing to eat high-calorie foods. It will also make you less likely to crave dessert.
8. Controlled Portions
Use a kitchen scale and measuring cups. Look up the caloric and nutritional values of the recipes you make, and divide it up into portions that will suit whatever diet you’re on.
9. Food Safety
Foodborne illnesses are everywhere. Keep your kitchen and hands immaculately clean so you and your family can stay safe.
10. Food Freedom
If you’re cooking at home, you can make it gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free – it’s up to you!
The more you cook, the more practice you get in, and the better your food will be. Some people are born chefs, but with all the free content online at your fingertips, and digital cookbooks available on Amazon, you can start to cook like a pro in no time.
Another main reason for cooking at home is all the benefits you get when you cook and eat together as a family. Let’s look at this in more detail in the next section.
THE BENEFITS OF COOKING AND EATING TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
We are surrounded by people every day, yet it can be hard for some of us to really connect with others. We don’t seem to have time, or we might avoid intimacy because we are not sure how others will react to what we have to say, or we are afraid of being judged.
We are also surrounded by gadgets. We eat in front of the TV, at our computer keyboards, and in the car. We also wolf down the food mindlessly, leaving us prone to overeating and emotional eating because we are stressed and bored.
It’s not all that long ago that almost every family sat down together at the kitchen or dining room table every night for dinner. Studies have shown that families who eat together, stay together. Mealtimes are about more than just the food. They are about connecting, caring, sharing.Other Details
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