Cook More, Weigh Less

Eating in restaurants or out of the home leads to eating more calories, more fat and less healthy options.
When we eat out we tend to eat less-healthy options and more than we would at home.

Amongst the many changes people can make to permanently lose weight and get healthy, learning to cook (or at least PREPARE) your own food is probably the one that will have the most benefit for you in the long term.


That’s a pretty ballsy statement but I’m pretty confident that it’s true and I'm going to show you why.


You are what you eat...

... and if you want to know what you are, you need to know what you’re eating and the best way to do that is simply to prepare your own food. Unfortunately, people are cooking less and less with some of the reasons being {1,2}:


  • lack of time
  • lack of cooking skills
  • lack of confidence in the kitchen


All of these are valid reasons but all of them can be resolved if you decide to but in a little effort to do so.

Why is cooking so important for health?

To put it simply. People who prepare more food at home have healthier diets {1,2}. Putting in the time to cook at home makes people’s diets healthier in multiple ways:


  • More fruit and vegetables
  • More whole grains
  • More essential vitamins and minerals (such as calcium)
  • Less Calories
  • Less Fat
  • Less Salt
  • Less fast food


Why does eating in restaurants make people fat?

On the other hand people who eat away from home more frequently tend to eat more total calories (almost 300 extra calories per day) with most of those extra calories coming from fat {3,4}.


And just so you know what happens to those 300 extra calories, one of those studies showed that people who eat out in restaurants frequently tended to have a higher body fat percentage than those who ate out less often {4}. Yup, the more you eat out, the fatter you get.


What’s wrong with restaurant food

Before I go any further into this I want to be very clear that I have no problem with people going out to enjoy food in restaurants IN MODERATION. I love food and I love eating out but THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE FOOD I EAT IS MADE BY ME AT HOME.


With that said, there are a few reasons that restaurant food may make people gain more weight:


  • Food in restaurants is often higher in fat and calories and lower in fiber {5} meaning it’s more energy dense (which basically means it’s easier to eat a lot of calories
  • Portions in restaurants tend to be big and bigger portions encourage people to eat more which is something I’ve written about here
  • Food in restaurants tends to be HYPER-palatable which is a fancy way of saying that it tastes really good which encourages people to overeat too {6}


Even if you’re not eating in a restaurant, when we need to eat away from home, eating healthy options is not always easy and sometimes we’re forced to seriously compromise on our diet quality. I think most people reading this will probably have an experience similar to buying a pre-made bacon sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a chocolate bar, just because they didn’t have the time (or the forethought) to buy anything else.


The secret benefit of learning to cook

There is one extra benefit to learning to cook that can have a huge effect on your weight loss success. As I mentioned earlier, learning to cook teaches you what goes into your food. Once you’ve tried cooking a dish (or once you’ve read how to cook from a recipe) you have a much better idea of how healthy (or not) it is. Knowing the ingredients of a dish can help you to make much better food choices when you eat away from home. For example, if you know that a certain dish is normally prepared with a truckload of cream and butter, you’re more likely to avoid ordering that dish (or at least eating less of it) when eating out.


A great example of this is the cake you see below which I made myself for a birthday party last week. I made it completely from scratch using 2 recipes that I found online. One of the recipes, I had used many times before and knew it was very heavy in butter and sugar. The second, the cake icing, it was my first time making it and I was blown away when I measured out the butter and sugar I needed to make it. Long story short, the cake was spectacular (cocky hat tip) but each slice (thin slices at that) was over close to 600 calories. 


High fat chocolate brownie and cream cheese cake that teaches the calories in common cakes
The delicious Black & White Decadence Cake (yeah, I named it), which worked out at almost 600 calories a slice!

So, I won’t be making the cake again any time soon, but at least now I am more aware than ever as to how calorically dense some cakes can be and that will make me think harder about grabbing a slice of cake the next time I grab a coffee with friends. On the other hand, if you want a delicious, low-calorie and high-protein carrot cake that will soothe any sweet tooth, try this recipe here.


Long story short, knowing how to cook/bake/prepare certain foods, helps me make healthier food choices when I eat away from home.


Get Over Your Fear of Cooking

I’ll admit, I was very lucky to have been introduced to cooking, by my grandmother, from a young age. I cooked and baked as a child and I studied Home Economics in high school which means I have a really solid base in the science and art of making food. That said, the majority of the dishes that I make on a regular basis, the dishes that form the foundation of a diet that keeps me fit and healthy, are all things that:


  • Take minimal prep and cooking time
  • Use a few common ingredients
  • Can be made in one single pot over the stove
  • Use pre-made sauces/seasoning to bring the flavor of the dish together.


Sure, my instagram might be filled with some pretty looking dishes, but you’d be amazed at how easy they are to put together. The process for many of my dishes is the following:


  1. Chop veggies
  2. Defrost meat (pre-chopped) or open jar of beans
  3. Open jar of sauce or soup
  4. Add everything to a pot and heat until cooked through


I might get a bit of flak now that people realize what a lazy cook I am but if it helps other people try their hand in the kitchen then it’ll be well worth it. 


In fairness, simply opening a bag of pre-prepared veggies and adding a tablespoon of low-calorie dressing is still food prep and would be a much better option than many of the junk-foods people buy when they "don’t have time" to cook!


There are plenty of resources on line for learning the basics of cooking including thousands of free videos on Youtube. You have nothing to lose by giving it a try. So set aside some time, buy a few basic ingredients that are both healthy and that you enjoy eating and throw them together to see what you come up with. Your waistline will thank you later.


Eat well, folks.


  1. McGowan L, Caraher M, Raats M, Lavelle F, Hollywood L, McDowell D, et al. Domestic cooking and food skills: A review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(11):2412–31.
  2. Larson NI, Perry CL, Story M, Neumark-Sztainer D. Food Preparation by Young Adults Is Associated with Better Diet Quality. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106(12):2001–7.
  3. Clemens LH, Slawson DL, Klesges RC. The effect of eating out on quality of diet in premenopausal women. J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Apr 30;99(4):442-4.
  4. McCrory M a, Fuss PJ, Hays NP, Vinken a G, Greenberg a S, Roberts SB. Overeating in America: association between restaurant food consumption and body fatness in healthy adult men and women ages 19 to 80. Obes Res. 1999;7(6):564–71.
  5. Lin BH, Frazao E. Nutritional quality of foods at and away from home. Food Review: The Magazine of Food Economics. 1997;20(2).
  6. Sørensen LB, Møller P, Flint A, Martens M, Raben A. Effect of sensory perception of foods on appetite and food intake: a review of studies on humans. Int J Ob. 2003 Oct 1;27(10):1152-66.


Have you been working out? You're looking good!
If you liked the article why not share the love:

Write a comment

Comments: 0