Most of us dine out once or twice a week. Pre-oil crash, Albertans led the country in restaurant spending, shilling out $2,137 each in 2014. Now that we’re in tougher economic times, saving money may be the biggest motivator to fire up the oven at home. But there are plenty of other reasons to go for the home-cooked meal—and some may surprise you.
1. You’ll slay stress and be a happier worker
Leave work, pick up kids, grab groceries, get dinner on the table … Orchestrating a home-cooked evening meal can sound like one more stressful to-do in a packed schedule. But studies have shown that family dinners can actually fight stress. Teens who have frequent family dinners are less likely to be very stressed. Employees, particularly working moms, are more likely to report they work in a healthy environment if they are able to make it home for family dinner—even if they work long hours.
2. You’ll probably eat less (and not just because you control the portions)
Many restaurants serve meals that are twice the size they should be, portion-wise. Up to 60 percent more calories lurk in a meal delivered by a waiter than in one we’ve made ourselves.
But restaurants affect how much we eat in more surprising, subtle ways. A recent study showed that, even when their orders contained the same amount of calories, people who ate in a typical fast-food environment (think bright lights and fast music) consumed more calories than those who ate in an environment with softer lighting, soothing music, and tasteful decor (easy to replicate at home).
3. You’ll save time (yes, really!)
This seems counterintuitive, but think about it: if you avoid unhealthy fast food and choose a sit-down restaurant, eating out can take around 80 minutes from the time you trundle out of the house to the time you get back home. By contrast, most people can get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes and eat it in under 15 minutes. (Don’t believe us? Try these half-hour, one-pan recipes.)
4. Your kids are more likely be better eaters (and better behaved)
Family dinner doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting with rosy-cheeked children and a steaming spread. It just has to happen regularly. Kids who eat three or more family meals per week are
- 12% less likely to be overweight
- 35% less likely to have disordered eating
- 24% more likely to eat healthy foods
In addition, kids who eat fewer than three family meals a week are
- 5 X more likely to have abused prescription drugs and used illicit drugs
- 5 X more likely to have smoked
- 5 X more likely to have tried alcohol
So, what’s for dinner?