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Home Cooking and Food Preparation 101

Cooking and eating at home can improve your health - but what does that really mean? In our last article, we discussed the history and benefits of culinary health coaching. This article looks at research conducted by Marla Reicks, PhD; RD, Megan Kocher MLIS, and Julie Reeder, PhD; MPH; CHES, and discusses their findings, the benefits of home cooking and meal preparation, and tips for getting started. 

Benefits of Home Cooking and Food Preparation 


Marla Reicks, PhD; RD, Megan Kocher MLIS, and Julie Reeder, PhD; MPH; CHES conducted a study from 2011 to 2016 to better understand the benefits of cooking and home food preparation interventions among adults. These interventions included monthly cooking sessions, kitchen courses, seminars and workshops, personalized health advice, and more. They focused on providing the patients with the framework to successfully cook and prepare healthier meals at home.


Dietary Behavior Changes


Reicks, Kocher, and Reeder found that with education, cooking and preparing meals at home could positively change dietary behaviors - such as increased fruit and vegetable consumption, portion control, and reduced sodium intake. As we discussed in a previous article, behavior change can help prevent yo-yo dieting, and help make long-term weight loss achievable. Reicks, Kocher, and Reeder found these interventions also contributed to greater energy - another key benefit of healthier eating.


Improved Food Purchasing and Security 


The same study also found home cooking could drive other positive behavior changes, including better food purchasing and security. USAID defines food security as “having, at all times, both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.” Unfortunately, around 1.9 billion people across the globe are moderately or severely food insecure. Low-income adults that received interventions decreased their purchasing of unhealthy foods such as carbonated beverages, desserts, and snacks, as well as were able to reduce the total number of groceries they purchased - helping them save money. 


The Reicks, Kocher, and Reeder study showed that cooking and preparing food at home could help patients increase fruit and vegetable consumption, improve portion control, reduce sodium intake, improve food security posture and save money, and increase energy. 

Tips for Home Cooking and Meal Preparation


Cooking and preparing your meals from home can be challenging and time-consuming, especially when getting started. Here are some tips for those getting started in their healthy cooking and eating journey.


  1. Consider eating more of these foods for improved nutrition - fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

  2. Organize your kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator, and keep track of what you already have. This will help you save time money - fewer trips to the store and less food waste. 

  3. Create a staple list and review before heading to the store to make sure you will always have essential ingredients on hand.

  4. Organize your recipes so they are easy to find. Keep a notebook in the kitchen or a file on your computer. 

  5. Keep track of your favorite meals and look for healthy ways to change them up.

  6. Always create a grocery list before going food shopping - pick healthy meals to cook during the week and create your list around them.

  7. Use healthy cooking techniques such as steaming to add flavor without added fats. 

  8. Invest in non-stick cookware to cut down on oils and butter.

  9. Use a scale to measure large amounts of ingredients.

  10. Clean as you cook. This will save you time cleaning up after you’ve eaten.

Work with a Culinary Health Coach

Are you interested in a personalized intervention to help you plan healthy meals and cook and eat better? Culinary health coaching can help you change your eating habits and improve home cooking. Interested in a free consultation with a certified health and wellness coach? Reach out to Jane Barg at Cook for Health Coach.

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