Cooking has many benefits for your physical and mental health, and when you do it consistently, it can help bring you closer to your well-being goals. For starters, when you prep and cook your meals at home, you can better control what goes into your food, and what you’re putting in your body. Plus, it can be a great de-stressor, and a way to connect with family.
We asked our Thrive community to share the different ways that home cooking has improved their well-being. Which of these benefits will inspire you to prepare dinner at home tonight?
It’s a creative outlet
“I grew up watching my mom cook, and I’ve always loved it. I have to admit that it isn’t something I want to do all the time, but I enjoy the creative process. I especially love when I can cook a meal with a variety of ingredients. It allows me to enjoy my creativity in a totally different way, helping me stay mentally sharp and boosting my creative joy.”
—Peter Oruamen, writer and actor, Lagos, Nigeria
It makes joyful moments with your kids
“When I was single, cooking for one was overwhelming, as I was concerned with food waste, and having no company. When I got married, cooking was creative — a meditative adventure. When I became a mom, it became a chore — something I rarely had time for. Now that I am a mother of two, cooking is joyful again. It’s become about mother-daughter time with my two-year-old, involving her in the process and continuing the excitement for nourishing foods that we share with my partner, and soon enough, with her baby brother!”
—Patricia R. Zablah, software producer, Brooklyn, N.Y.
It fills your home with warmth
“Cooking at home has been a necessity for me. I even bought an Instant Pot to make yogurt, and we make our own bread. I love the smells as they permeate the house on cold winter days. Cooking brings me a sense of warmth and contentment. I work from home, as a business owner and writer, and the anticipation of sharing the preparation of a meal is a comfort and a convivial experience.”
—Paula M. Amaras, co-owner and writer, University Heights, OH
It sparks your imagination
“Cooking is therapeutic for me, and I make something different almost every day. Lately, I’ve become a bit more strategic in how I maximize my ingredients. For example, instead of frying chicken breast or roasting chicken thighs separately, I will buy a whole chicken, boil it, trim the meat and skin, and then make a broth to use throughout the week. That’s soup, enchiladas, chicken salad, and bone broth from a single purchase!”
—Ariel Hollie, project manager, Los Angeles, CA
It promotes healthy habits
“Cooking at home and meal prepping has literally saved our lives! I was able to lower my bad cholesterol by more than half by eating home-cooked meals, and got my dad off his high blood pressure medication after three months of cooking for him at home. I love going to the farmers’ markets and picking local produce whenever possible to have the freshest ingredients.”
—Lennis Perez, engineer and wellness consultant, Austin, TX
It helps provide energy and focus
“I used to skip eating lunch at work because I just didn’t have time to get away to buy food each day. One year, I made ‘eat lunch every day’ my New Year’s resolution. I found the only way to sustainably do that was to meal prep every Sunday. I’ve now been doing this every week for about three years, and it has completely changed things for me. Instead of crashing everyday at 3pm, I have healthy, tasty food that helps sustain my energy throughout the day.”
—Louisa Liska, writer, San Francisco, CA
It lets you control what goes in each dish
“Cooking at home helps me prioritize my health, as I know exactly how I have prepared it in terms of the cooking oils I use, the different seasonings, and all of the other ingredients. Preparing my own food means that my food is nutritious and fresh, as there are no preservatives.”
—Katie Dyer, wellness coach, London, U.K.
It creates family bonding time
“As soon as my kids were big enough to sit in a shopping cart, they came to the store with me. They learned how to shop for food, create delicious meals, and appreciate how healthy food makes them look and feel. I have always set an example when I set my table, and cooking together with my family has been the thread that binds us.”
—Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., nutrition consultant, media trainer, and author, New York, N.Y.
It sets you up for a stress-free week
“All too often, we buy produce with good intentions, and it ends up rotting at the bottom of our vegetable drawer. In order to prevent that, I’m committed to shopping and chopping! When I come home from the grocery store over the weekend, I clean and chop all of my produce. This makes it significantly easier to prep my meals throughout the week. It has helped me create healthier meals at home, and healthy lunches that I take to work.”
—N. Anderson, Benedictine University L.E.A.D.S. director, Naperville, IL
It offers a designated time for mindfulness
“Cooking at home has improved my well-being by making me schedule time out of my week to prepare for the upcoming week. I have made a mindful decision to gather new recipes and try a new one weekly. I meal prep for the upcoming week on Sunday, and I have found the experience to be therapeutic. It gives me a designated time to focus on something other than a screen.”
—Andrea Spinasanto, graphic designer, Brookfield, IL
It encourages smart spending habits
“Every Sunday morning, we make a list of the different dishes we want to eat for the week. Then, we go shopping for the ingredients and come home to prepare the food. Food preparation has helped us go from eating out three or four times a week to only once a week. It has helped us saved money, too. A meal at a restaurant would be about 80 dollars on average for a family of four, versus 120 dollars for 18 meals.”
—Sheng Herr, business strategist, Detroit, MI
It sets the tone for a relaxing night in
“Home cooking was never a passion of mine when it was obligatory as a working mom. Now that I’m retired, restaurants are often too noisy for us, and I’d rather fill our apartment with the smells of cooking and the sounds of our laughter. I first sharpen the knives, then slice into the onion, potato, shallot, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, ginger, garlic, tomato, butternut squash, garnet sweet potato, avocado, or chili –– and I know the cut will be intentional as possible.”
—Hazel Weiser, retired law professor, New York, N.Y.
It teaches your kids to create healthy relationships with food
“Cooking at home is particularly beneficial for children, as it is a powerful way to foster a positive relationship with food. I see a lot of clients who complain that their children are very picky eaters, and I always tell them to invite their children into the kitchen. Let them wash, peel, cut, stir, mash, touch, smell, and have fun! When children are involved in the preparation process, they are more likely to get curious and willing to try new foods.”
—Isabel Galiano, health and cancer coach, Singapore
It gets the whole family involved
“I post a weekly dinner menu and prepare what’s needed on Sunday afternoons. Everyone knows exactly what to expect and can help pitch in. I also have a regular rotation of meals, so no one gets bored with our meals. We’ll even throw in a new recipe, like breakfast for dinner, or buffet-style leftovers night!”
—Allison Jackson, fitness and nutrition coach, Mahwah, N.J.
It stimulates clear thinking
“I am passionate about my cooking, especially anything I can cook in cast iron skillets or pots in the oven or stove. I find this approach to be most versatile and subject to a more healthy approach. I find that cooking is like therapy for the mind — to work something through to completion.”
—J. Eustis Corrigan, Jr., certified public accountant, Memphis, TN
It arms you with knowledge
“Cooking at home has improved my well-being by encouraging me to become more knowledgeable about the ingredients I use to cook and the tools I use in the kitchen. Every time I cook a meal at home, I learn something new. Whether it’s a health benefit of a specific ingredient or how to use a tool in different ways, I always leave the kitchen feeling knowledgeable and full after a home-cooked meal.”
—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO
“I grew up seeing my mom prepare meals for our family of six every single day. It was a whole lot of cooking, but she never complained. I wanted to instill the same traditions and values in my own family, but it was hard to cook every single day, so I started cooking and prepping over the weekends. Then, my husband started to pitch in, and now my kids help, too. It has sort of become a fun Sunday family event. Sunday is the day for us where we all connect, cook, and eat together.”
—Alka Chopra, registered dietitian, Toronto, ON, Canada
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