How Important Is Cooking to Weight Loss?

Diane in the Kitchen

Is it important to cook your own food while losing weight?

It was for me. John and I were huge supporters of the restaurant industry when I was morbidly obese and I do think that those lunches and evenings spent sitting in restaurant booths had a pretty big impact on my obesity. After all, some of the meals I was eating had more calories than I needed for the entire day, and of course I didn’t just have that one meal. 🙂

I’ve met a lot of people who try to lose weight without cooking. When I teach my weight loss classes, there is usually a 50/50 split among participants who cook and those who do not. When I ask the non-cooking people how they plan on losing weight successfully without cooking they say they are going to be careful when eating out, heat up diet frozen dinners in the microwave, and rely on packaged diet foods.

Although you can lose weight without cooking, I think that cooking is an essential part of weight loss for a variety of reasons.

1. You control the ingredients

Let’s face it. When you eat at a restaurant you don’t always know everything that goes into the dish you are eating. It’s hard to guess what is in the sauce or how they seasoned the food. And even processed foods can be tricky because sometimes a food can be called different names such as sugar going by so many names.

2. You control the calories

Controlling your calories is a tremendous part of weight loss and cooking your own food gives you ultimate control. Adjusting the amount of oil in a recipe or using a leaner cut of meat automatically reduces the calories, which can help you lose weight.

3. You decrease your reliance on processed foods.

I made all kinds of dishes using processed food when I was overweight and obese. Hamburger Helper was my friend and those pasta salads in a box were a frequent visitor at the table. When I really learned to cook, I also reduced how much processed foods we were eating.

4. You develop lifelong skills.

Cooking is something that builds on itself. As you learn to cook you also gain confidence in your abilities. You can pass those skills and abilities on to other people in your lives, which can help them change their lives as well.

So what do you think? Is cooking your own food important to your weight loss effort and did you have to learn how to cook? Diane

21 thoughts on “How Important Is Cooking to Weight Loss?

  1. Susan Calderon says:

    I do think cooking your own food is important in both weight loss and maintence. Back in 1997 when I started my journey and lost 40 pounds I did have to learn how to cook healthier meals and learn about proper portion control plus I started exercising.
    To this day as I maintain this 40 pound weight loss I cook most all my families meals. Recently I went gluten free do to an intolerance of gluten and now I am having to “relearn” how to cook and stay healthy.

  2. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    Unfortunately I think it is important to cook to lose weight! (I hate to cook, LOL)

    I have to say I appreciate that the granola bars I eat are homemade and full of good stuff only. I can also adapt the ratio protein/carbs by deciding what I put in them.

  3. Babbalou says:

    I think it’s possible to eat healthfully and cook minimally, but it would get boring. A plate of cut up raw vegetables, some fruit and then scrambled eggs, cottage cheese or cooked chicken breasts can be a fast and decent dinner. My mother-in-law is almost 90, doesn’t like to cook and doesn’t really care about food – this is how she eats most of the time. Fortunately I enjoy cooking because I like a lot more variety in my meals. Of course some people consider washing and cutting up produce “cooking” – if that’s the case I think you do have to “cook” to eat healthfully.

  4. Natalie says:

    Well I love to cook and we don’t eat out very often (at least since having kids) but I still managed to put on an extra 20kg! So cooking at home only works for weight-loss if you do it right. Still, it’s got to be healthier than eating all that junk out of boxes that some people do, even if they do manage to lose weight doing it.

  5. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I think eating at home and cooking your own meals from scratch is very important to weight loss and weight maintenance. As you said, at restaurants you have no idea how many calories you are really eating. I think it’s also much harder to control your portions, even if you try, as you are often served so much that it is hard to judge what a true portion is as you may have three or more on your plate.

    I also think that people don’t have to cook difficult or time-consuming dishes. Just a few, simple dishes with not too many ingredients can get you started.

  6. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I have no doubt that without eating my own food, I would not be where I am now with weight maintenance & how I look… I am not a cook – I cook VERY SIMPLE but it works for me & if I can do it, anyone can! 🙂

  7. blackhuff says:

    It’s very important to weight loss and maintenance. Cooking your own food makes you conscious of what you put in your body and how much of what like oil and carbs.

  8. That Guy... says:

    Cook vs, preparing. I prepare most of my food, but I cook very little of it, other than steaming veggies. Yes, preparing most of my food keeps me grounded. I also agree that it’s the best way to ensure quality control 🙂

  9. Kyra says:

    Well, for me cooking is important because it’s cheaper, AND you can make a larger serving size for a lot less calories than eating out (and avoid the upset tummy those places tend to give you as well!) Plus, there is a responsibility for your own food that comes along with it. Good, all around! 🙂

  10. Alice says:

    I think its three things – planning meals, shopping for them and cooking them. I can cook and don’t mind doing it but I don’t like to go shopping and I’m lazy about planning. Maybe it’s a progression. Since I’ve gotten in the habit of cooking our main meal and making myself breakfast and using mostly leftovers for lunch, my next step is planning so that I don’t feel pressured when dinner time comes around. My DH is willing to do the shopping, I just need to make him the list.

  11. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane, Cooking is a verr important to my weightloss journey too…because I know exactly what I am eating, there are no hidden ingredients so I can even count the exact calories 🙂

  12. L says:

    I think cooking has been important to my continuing weight loss. I have learned all kinds of things about how, what, and why to cook by spending more time thinking about my food, before I prepare it. Last night, for example, I put lentils in my chili. Who knew lentils in chili could give such a nice mouth feel? They are packed with protein, so a win/win for last night’s meal. I will add them frequently from now on, especially during October Unprocessed. I’m trying to move further and further away from boxed, bagged, and fast foods. It does take a commitment to spend more time in the kitchen, but when you’re done, the meal is so much more satisfying than I can buy in any restaurant in my town, and I don’t have to worry that someone with the flu prepared it. 😉

  13. Janis says:

    I think cooking helps you know what goes into food, and how it will taste. If you cook your own and do it healthfully, you start to recognize what might be off in a restaurant meal. You get more in touch with what actual food tastes like — how unbelievably delicious steamed cauliflower with lemon pepper is, and when the restaurant down the street is soaking it in butter or steaming it in sugar water. (I still can’t believe places do that, but apparently they do. It sounds disgusting.) You’ll be able to sense when that piece of cornbread or lasagne has six times more fat than it needs after you make your own from a more healthy recipe and discover that it actually tastes really good.

    I think it’s an important part of recalibrating your taste buds after a long time of eating large amounts of very unnatural and unhealthy food. And you can’t do that until you’ve become somewhat familiar with what goes into good, tasty, healthy food. You can’t recognize seventeen-cheese pizza for the abomination it is until you’ve grated a tablespoon of real parmigiana reggiano over some whole wheat pasta — which, if you get the real thing, is more than enough since it’s so savory and strongly flavored. All foods are like that.

  14. julia @ a (future weight loss success story) says:

    Yes I think it’s so important – I know how to cook, quite well actually, I just don’t like doing it much and this has led to our family eating out more nights than we should. I’m trying to learn to love cooking (or at least tolerate it ha!) for all the reasons you mentioned, it’s just so much better for our health.

  15. Theresa says:

    I can’t believe that people can lose weight not cooking…. well unless you are talking to someone on a raw food since that is possible. However, the idea of doing frozen dinners and eating out is not going to work. At the restaurant they cook with a lot of oil because it speeds up the cooking time. I don’t think you could find healthy options. Maybe, in a big city.

    Knowing what is in the food you eat is best.

  16. Natasha says:

    I think cooking is really important for me anyway. I usually get full off the fumes haha so when I do eventually sit down and eat I cant eat very much which is good to keep the weight down.

  17. PlumPetals says:

    Cooking at home is extremely important to me. I have passed on many dinner invitations and made other adjustments to my time in order to make sure I cook at home and eat healthy. It’s been tough at times, but totally worth it!

  18. Ali Bowling says:

    Cooking real food at home is one of he key ways to lose weight. It is SO important because you control hat you eat and what goes into your food. No preservatives or too much salt or sugar and its not processed. It can’t be beat.

  19. John Dunston says:

    This is why I absolutely recommend teaching kids to cook so everything they eat is controlled. Let them love the kitchen, so they would love their body and be wise enough to set limitations on what is healthy and not.

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