The single best way to improve your diet and peel off pounds is to cook more. It’s true: You need to cook more to lose more.
If you’re on a first name basis with the pizza delivery guy or your local Chinese restaurant knows your order when you walk in, you’re part of the majority of Americans who are more comfortable making dinner reservations than they are making dinner. But the more you eat out or order in, the greater the chances that you’re going to be overweight.
More than eight in 10 adults eat out once a week, while more than half dine out two or more times per week. Away-from-home meals have skyrocketed since the 1070s—along with the nation’s waistline.
Eating out makes it harder to manage your weight, no matter how disciplined you are. Study after study shows that dining out and weight gain go hand-in-hand. One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who ate out most frequently consumed nearly 300 more calories a day compared to women who ate out once or twice weekly. An extra 300 calories a day could equal more than 20 pounds in a year!
Part of the problem is that we think more about our wallets than our waists: Too many of us try to get our money’s worth when we eat out. Another hazard: Healthy-sounding options are often far from healthy.
Consider the average calorie count of restaurant dishes from a national survey of U.S. restaurants:
Appetizers: 813 calories (many appetizers are meant to be shared)
Main Entrées: 675 calories
Salads: 500 calories
Salad Dressing: 175 calories
Side Dishes: 260 calories
Soup: 225 calories
Specialty non-alcoholic beverages: 420 calories
Learn to Cook More to Lose More
I work a lot, am constantly under deadlines and feel time-crunched almost every day of the week. However, I still find time virtually every day to make my breakfast and cook dinner. I was shocked last week to realize that I hadn’t eaten dinner out (outside of work travel) for about the past four or five months. But then I suddenly thought about how proficient I’ve become in the kitchen (this is from a Manhattan girl who used to store winter sweaters in her oven) and I even received a courtesy call from the gas company once asking if I my apartment was vacant as no gas use had been registered for months!
I’ve learned to have about 10 go-to recipes that I can piece together at a moments notice and they take less than 30 minutes to make. I now know it’s actually easier to make something for dinner than it is to go out or order in. Plus, I know exactly what I’ve put into the meal, there are no hidden fats or added sugars and I have leftovers for my lunch the next day. If you have eggs, there’s always a meal, if you have some frozen or fresh veggies and a little chicken, make a quick stir-fry with quick-cooking rice. I always have a few frozen “light” meals from Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers in my freezer that I can partner with a whole grain roll, brown rice or tortilla to make a meal. Soup and sandwiches work in a pinch and I often lean on grilled or a supermarket rotisserie chicken to go into all kinds of meal options.
If you just get into the mindset that eating out isn’t an option you’ll start to gain more kitchen confidence and efficiencies so that making your own meals becomes the most convenient—and healthy choice. You’ll learn how to use meal prep on one day to do part of the work for the next and many other time-saving skills. Not only will you save lots of money, you’ll shave hundreds of calories from your diet to help you win at losing and maintaining a healthy weight.