A fairly constant pattern we see among overweight and obese individuals is the habit of eating out. Many people today don’t like to cook and they eat less than half their meals at home. This convenience kills and can lead to food addiction as you lose control of what goes in your food.
It is true that people eat out because of convenience but many have unwittingly become habituated to the high salt, fat and sugar content of these foods. It doesn’t happen overnight, but food addiction is the reason why many people find it difficult to stop eating certain foods.
Processed foods and some convenience foods are designed with a procedure called layering. This is a technique where fat, sugar and salt is layered on more fat, sugar and salt made even more appealing by adding chemically engineered flavoring all of which creates an addictive effect.
If you think that might be a bit of sensationalism, let’s take a look at a typical hamburger from a fast food restaurant:
- The bun has salt, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, canola oil, and partially hydrogenated oil.
- The hamburger patty contains a large amount of fat, sugar and salt.
- It’s then topped with bacon, cheese, ketchup and a bit of special sauce adding even more fat, sugar and salt.
It’s not hard to understand why people develop strong cravings for their favorite fast-food hamburger and how eating out leads to a weight problem.
Some people think there’s no such thing as food addiction and that people simply need to exercise more self-control and eat less. But all foods don’t elicit the same response. People don’t binge on broccoli and apples like they do with cookies, chips and ice cream. Studies have confirmed that industrially processed sugar, fat and salt-laden foods are biologically addictive.
To make things worse, restaurant and take-out food portions are now way out of control. Rather than compete on quality, which would be a good thing, competitors focus on quantity. Cost conscious consumers are lured by huge portions and low prices and there appears to be little concern for the quality of the food.
Is It Really Cheaper To Eat At Home
It’s a fairly common assumption that it’s cheaper to eat out or to swing by a grocery store and pick up a prepared meal like a barbecued chicken with a salad and box of chips. A lot of people seem to think that it would cost just as much to make a quick meal at home. That’s a mistake because that dinner will cost you about $20 and you could have made a much healthier chicken stir fry for half the price and about the same amount of time that was spent driving to and from the store.
The Home Cooked Advantage
Most home cooked meals aren’t cooked in a deep fat fryer and we don’t add high fructose corn syrup to the meals we prepare with fresh ingredients. You would have a hard time making a home cooked meal as unhealthy as take out or convenience foods like frozen pizzas, fried egg rolls or any complete frozen meal offering for that matter.
A home cooked meal is not subjected to processes that strip the food of nutrients or fiber and you don’t end up consuming a lot of empty calories.
Less Added Salt
Excess salt encourages weight gain in three ways:
- Salt makes your body retain more water.
- Salty foods increase thirst and people often quench that thirst with beverages that are packed with calories.
- Salt encourages overconsumption.
Most people get about 70 percent of the salt in their diet from convenience and processed foods. And once they get used to really salty food, they automatically start adding more salt to the food cooked at home. All this extra salt raises your blood pressure and increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
No Trans Fats
Trans fats are manmade fats that are used in processed foods to make the food taste better and last longer. They raise your bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol that protects you against heart disease. Look for words like hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated oils. Oils marked ‘fully hydrogenated’ should be free of trans fats, but I prefer to buy top quality cold pressed oils.
Trans fats are found in most processed foods including cookies and baked goods, popcorn, crackers, chips, frozen waffles and french fries. Margarines and vegetable shortening that are marketed as a healthy replacement for butter contain trans fat!
Less Sugar and No HFCS
Most convenience foods are loaded with added sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Eating too much sugar has a bad effect on your metabolism that goes way beyond calorie content. It also leads to overeating because sugar loaded food causes your blood sugar level to shoot up and then drop below pre-meal level. Once you are back in low sugar space you crave more sugar to ‘pick you up’ in a cycle that keeps repeating every 15 to 30 minutes.
The only way you can control what goes into the food you eat is to make your meals at home. It allows you to take full control over the freshness, quality and portion size, and you also get to decide how much salt, sugar and fat is in your diet. There’s no high fructose corn syrup or MSG in your diet, and you should save money as well.
As with anything, the more you do it the easier it gets and you will eventually become a pretty good cook if you are so inclined.
Before you know it, your meals could compete with what’s being offered in the better restaurants.