In describing the many fronts in the “war” against obesity, Jane E. Brody, personal health columnist, is drawn inexorably to one conclusion: the road to a slimmer waistline starts in the home kitchen.
“The increase in obesity began nearly half a century ago with a rise in calories consumed daily and a decline in meals prepared and eaten at home,” she writes. Sugar alone is a minor player. We eat larger portions and accept restaurant and prepackaged foods that are high in calories, but packaged with a healthy aura, like yogurt.
Researchers from the Department of Agriculture calculate that just one meal a week away from home can translate into two extra pounds a year for the average person; the average adult now eats out nearly five times a week.
The demons of larger portion sizes, less exercise and the metabolic slowdown associated with becoming overweight have become familiar, but there is hope (and challenge) in the current conversation surrounding obesity for parents. If adults can find a healthier balance in preparing their own foods, parents can encourage healthier eating in their children by cooking and eating at home (and teaching children to do the same).
We can, and many have, argue about whether the proposal that families eat more home-cooked meals is a sexist push “back to the kitchen” for women as well as a romanticization of “the way things never were.” There’s value to that. While there’s no reason that the responsibility for meals should fall toward women, if they are the ones who absorb the guilt of the message about home-cooked foods, then a sense that every night requires a freshly prepared gourmet meal on the table will become yet one more reason that women can’t “have it all.”
Read More: parenting.blogs.nytimes.com