This weight loss strategy costs you nothing, involves zero dieting, and requires no physical exercise. Perplexed? It is simple—eat at home. In 2010, it was reported that 50% of meals were eaten away from home. Typically foods consumed at home contain 31.5% of calories from fat compared to food eaten outside of the home which rake in 37.6% of their calories from fat. It is well known that foods eaten out are almost always higher in fat and calories, as well as sodium. Increased consumption of fat, calories and sodium not only lead to weight gain and stall weight loss efforts, but can also contribute to the development of type II diabetes, heart disease and many other detrimental health conditions. A recent study found higher rates of success in weight loss and maintenance among those participants who reported sharing portions and/or never eating fast-food compared with participants who ate fast-food two or more times per week. Eating dinner at home as a family also reduces the incidence of childhood obesity. In a study on household routines and obesity in U.S. preschool-aged children, it was shown that kids as young as four have a lower risk of obesity if they eat regular family dinners at home.
So how can you improve your eating at home habit? Laurie David, the author of the “The Family Dinner”  suggests making a set dinnertime, where everyone eats the same meal, and eliminate distractions such as cell phones and televisions.
For those short on time, keep meal prep simple by implementing some of the following tips:
- Plan Ahead
- Get an idea of five meals you can make for the upcoming week. Need inspiration? Look in your fridge at what needs to be eaten up. For example, if you have several different fresh vegetables that are going to spoil soon, make a stir-fry by chopping them up and cooking them in a skillet with some chopped chicken breast and a tablespoon of oil until they are tender-crisp. Hint: If you have a lot freeze some of the chopped veggies and meat for a second round of stir-fry another day.
- Recreate Leftovers
- Too many pasta noodles leftover from spaghetti? Toss leftover noodles with olive oil, parmesan, and cooked broccoli for lunch the following day or serve with cooked chicken breast for an evening meal.
- Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry
- Canned tomatoes, canned beans, frozen veggies, whole grains such as pasta, rice, quinoa, and broths all have long shelf lives and can be used to make a variety of quick meals. Chicken broth, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, frozen corn and peppers can be mixed with chicken to create a quick chicken tortilla soup. Top it with tortilla chips, cheese, green onion, and/or sliced avocado.
- Involve Others
- Make meal time family time by allowing children to help in the preparation and cleanup of the meal. Little ones love to stir and add ingredients and older children can practice math with measuring!
Research Assistance Provided by Sarah Volling