A few days ago I read an article entitled ‘7 reasons I think home cooking is overrated’.  My neck stiffened a little and I felt my blood pressure rising…oh please, don’t be telling everyone that home cooking isn’t important.

She wasn’t really. A few lines in I realised 2 things.

1)   The author was talking about cooking at home ‘every single night’ being over rated.

2)   The article was sponsored by KFC.

I read on and found that the author was really just outlining some of the negative aspects of  home cooking, giving these negative aspects as reasons for choosing to have ‘Takeaway Friday’.

In a nutshell, cooking at home can be a pain in the butt.

The mess, the demands from kids wanting different things, kids turning their noses up at what you cook, being stuck in a recipe rut, time away from family, takeaway tasting better if you’re not a good cook. She also mentioned that you can make healthy choices when purchasing food outside the home –whether you can at KFC is debatable, but not the main point.

Now I am not going to ‘counter claim’ these points because for this author, and many, many others, these are absolutely valid points.

But, like anything, if you focus on the negatives of the harder option, and ignore the negatives of the easier option, then you will find yourself wondering why you bother putting in the extra effort.  And if you can’t answer that question, you may well stop bothering.

Yes, grabbing takeaway is easier, but at what cost?

Australia has significant public health problems and many of these can be linked to our fast food culture. No longer an occasional food that we get when on long drives or for a holiday treat.

Fast food has become the go to when cooking at home seems to hard, too annoying, too ‘overrated’.  For many families, fast food is the norm for dinner one night a week. This would be ok if this was the only fast food for the week. But there’s lunch at maccas after soccer on Saturday, Jonny’s friend’s birthday party at playland with nuggets and chips for lunch, Mum and Dad going out for dinner so we’ll just grab a pizza for the kids. My husband is a teacher and has seen parents drive to the school at lunchtime to drop off a happy meal to their child.  For some families cooking at home is so underrated it barely happens at all, with terrible long-term health consequences.

So let’s focus on the positives of cooking at home.

It’s healthier

Unless you own and use a deep fryer, and add teaspoons of salt and tablespoons of sugar to what you are cooking at home, then your home-cooked meal is pretty much guaranteed to be a healthier option to fast food. The amount of added salt and sugar in takeaway food is astounding, and don’t forget your fries on the side. Would you like a deep fried dessert for one dollar? Would you like to upsize for two? What about a sugary drink to go with that?

It helps form healthier life-long habits

Constant exposure to sweetened and salty foods develops a preference for these foods in our children, and ourselves. In addition, what we model for our children has a profound impact on their lifelong habits. A child’s brain is not developed enough to make a decision about what to eat now, based on knowledge of the health impact this will have on them in the future. What Mum and Dad do, and say, about food, will impact their choice today, and in the future.

It helps children learn to make healthy choices for themselves

A recent study in from Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences has found that children whose parents spend more time cooking, make better food choices for themselves. This was the case even after controlling for family income and whether or not the children had a parent at home full-time. You can read more about the study here.

It allows a real love of real food to develop

When cooking at home, you can open up a world of good food to your kids. Cooking at home gives you opportunities to teach your kids about the wonders of trying new foods, about different textures, different tastes, colors and cooking methods.

I’ll never forget the first time I shared a pomegranate with my eldest when he was two. The sheer wonder on his face as we cracked it open and found the ‘jewels’ inside was priceless. We have tried artichokes, buying a purple one and a green one then trying to spot differences as we dipped the leaves in lemon and butter. He didn’t really like it, but thinks he “might when he’s older” so would like me to buy some next year. We bought a dragon fruit once, I had never eaten one but we saw it on playschool and he wanted to try it. You can simply to cook an egg 3 different ways and spend sometime deciding which way you like best. Giving your child a love for real food and adventurous eating is a beautiful gift that they can enjoy for life.  I’ve l heard stories of people who travelled the world but only ate in McDonalds all over the world because it was familiar and ‘safe’. What a world of amazing food they are missing out on.

It teaches our children cooking skills

Cooking at home a great start in setting kids up with these important life skills. Also, with a little training and planning, you can have them cooking a meal for the family while still very young. Do you remember Junior Masterchef? Kids as young as 9 cooking the most amazing meals. You don’t need a masterchef, but if your children have been watching you cook, and you have been letting them help bit by bit, you’ll have a night off cooking without trading on a home-cooked meal in no time.

Yes, home cooking can be a drag, but it’s anything but overrated.

So to all the tired Mums and Dads, feeling unappreciated as you scrape barely eaten plates into the bin, feeling like it’s all such a hassle, that it is exhausting, repetitive and perhaps, overrated:  You are doing your children a wonderful service in putting in the extra effort. By not compromising your children’s health by ‘just grabbing some takeaway’ you are giving them a precious gift. If may not feel like it at the time, but try to take a long view.

And when you do take a night off, it’s not a problem for you or the kids because it is only occasionally. Put your feet up, savour and enjoy, because you deserve it!

Next time I’ll give you some tips on reducing the burden and making home cooking a little bit easier.

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