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Home-Cooked vs. Restaurant Meals: What’s Healthier?

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In times of high interest rates and inflation, more people prefer home-cooked meals over dining out. Eating at home offers the freedom of menu selection and pace of eating. However, though home-cooked meals are perceived to be healthier, some dishes can contain more sodium than restaurant meals. So, how can we make our home-cooked meals healthier?

This could lead to unbalanced meals

Surprisingly, a study has shown that home-cooked meals often have the lowest calorie and nutritional intake compared to other meal options. While home-cooked meals have many advantages, cooking every meal is not always possible, leading to reliance on stored food or a tendency to favor personal preferences. This can lead to biased eating habits, which, over time, can negatively impact your health.

Portion control

It’s difficult to gauge how much you’re consuming when dining out, but you can control your portions with home-cooked meals. Instead of filling your bowl with rice, try serving a little less. Adopting this habit for all meals could reduce your daily calorie intake by about 10%.

Eating with chopsticks

Using chopsticks instead of spoons can reduce the number of dishes you clean and prevent overeating. Furthermore, using chopsticks stimulates our brain, effectively preventing dementia. When eating soup, try using chopsticks to eat the solids and avoid the broth to reduce your intake of salt and fat naturally.

Adding protein-rich foods

When eating side dishes at home, balancing animal proteins with plant proteins such as beans and tofu is good. Since plant proteins are not easily supplemented, consuming them during home-cooked meals can be beneficial. Consuming beans or tofu can also help alleviate menopausal symptoms in middle-aged women. Moreover, the isoflavones found in beans can inhibit cancer cell proliferation, new blood vessel formation, and fat synthesis, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Eating slowly

When dining with others, people often match their eating speed to others. However, eating slowly can help with weight loss. We feel full after eating because our brain’s satiety center is stimulated. This stimulation starts about 20 minutes after we start eating. If you have a habit of eating quickly, try to focus more on chewing your food.

Changing the order of eating

Try to consume dietary fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in that order. This sequence gradually increases blood sugar levels and allows you to feel fuller faster by consuming fiber-rich vegetables first, naturally reducing your food intake.

Home-cooked meals can be high in sodium

Everyday home-cooked side dishes such as stir-fries, braised dishes, and steamed dishes have been found to contain higher sodium levels than restaurant meals. Since it’s impossible to measure sodium levels each time you cook, if you plan to eat at home, try to reduce salt seasoning, avoid soup, and opt for grilled or steamed fish to reduce sodium intake.

Reducing sodium in home-cooked meals

Soy sauce and fermented soybean paste are the main culprits of high sodium levels in Korean cuisine. Creating low-sodium soy sauce or fermented soybean paste is good when preparing side dishes at home. Mix 50g of regular soy sauce with radish, apple juice, and cabbage juice, boil it once, cool it down, and use it. This not only enhances the umami flavor but also reduces the sodium content. Also, the temperature at which our tongue can taste saltiness is between 17-42℃. If the food is hotter than 42℃, you may not taste the saltiness and add more salt. So, seasoning your food after it has cooled down is recommended.

Training your taste buds

Our taste buds, which detect flavors on our tongue, contain over 1,000 cells. These cells live for up to three weeks before being replaced by new cells. It may be tough to adjust in the first few days after reducing salt, but the cells that recognize saltiness disappear after about a week. As new cells that aren’t accustomed to saltiness grow, you adapt gradually. Aim to eat a little less salty every day, or not salty at all, and you’ll turn to low-sodium foods.

Consuming enough vegetables and fruits

Consuming enough vegetables and fruits is difficult when eating out, so consider preparing various dishes using seasonal fruits and vegetables at home. Adults should consume 20-30g of dietary fiber daily, primarily unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables. Pears, persimmons, tomatoes, broccoli, and other potassium-rich vegetables are also suitable for health, and these vegetables are effective in eliminating excess sodium intake.

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