Home Cooking and the Health of Your Team

When fast-food restaurants debuted more than a century ago, they challenged the concept of cooking and simplified the style of dining altogether. As studies have shown, however, the fastest ticket to fullness doesn’t always benefit our body or wellbeing. We’ve learned to make healthier choices when dining out, but home cooking yields far too many salient benefits – both in health and in the workplace – to be a secondary option. A healthy home-cooked meal feels like a hug on so many levels and it can be made convenient. Remind your employees of the tremendous value found in home cooking and dining together, for their health and wellbeing.

Some of the benefits of a home-cooked meal include:

Eating better: When you cook at home, it can be easier to eat well and maintain a balanced diet. Additionally, you know exactly what goes into your food, allowing you to control sneaky ingredients like sodium or sugar. Just be careful of the recipes you replicate that you catch on TV, as Smithsonian reported last year that home chefs who use social media or cooking shows to find new recipes tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI).

Experimenting with new ingredients: Learning and trying something new is wildly beneficial to your health and cerebral growth, no matter your age. The art and process of cooking brims with opportunities for novelty, which is known to build brain power and can equip you to better solve problems and navigate challenges.

Sampling healthier cooking methods: When you’re not in a rush and you’re mentally prepared to try a new recipe, you get to slow down and spend the time needed to prepare ingredients, such as vegetables, in a healthy way like slow-roasting, baking or steaming rather than microwaving or frying.

Spending less: Spending some time in the kitchen and your grocery store rather than a restaurant or drive-thru can save you a little extra cash. One word: leftovers. Making a weeknight meal that’s full of nutrition and wholesome goodness is an opportunity to prepare extra servings for tomorrow’s lunch – or even another main course. Meal planning is also a budget-friendly habit. We needn’t mention the well-known benefit of eating well now to prevent chronic disease and reduce high medical costs later.

Feeling a sense of accomplishment: Cooking can be a positive form of stress relief because it involves physical movement and is a short-term goal that can be accomplished, which boosts self-esteem. Meal improvisation can also lead to a flourish of creativity.

Improving cognitive function: Cooking is said to have made our species “human” and is why the human brain is so large in comparison to our body size. Some studies link the evolution of the human brain to the time early humans learned to prepare food. Even novice chefs can find something they enjoy about preparing a homemade meal. Who knows, it might evolve into a hobby, and that alone is beneficial to brain health.

Bringing us together: Cooking together means eating together, which can nurture your social life and wellness. There are tons of health, social and parenting benefits to sitting down for a meal with those you enjoy spending time with, such as better relationships, happier moods and even stronger academics in adolescents. If you and your co-workers frequent a restaurant together for lunch, see if they will join you at a nearby park instead. You can suggest they pack a lunch, but even if they get food to go, you’ll still have your healthy, homemade meal.

Building culinary traditions: If you cook with others, you will undoubtedly learn a new trick or technique to add to your culinary toolbox. These experiences build the foundation of family traditions.

Talk about cooking in your workplace. Here are topics you can cover:

Emphasize that healthy home cooking is the goal: Use communications and online resources to remind your employees of the many ways to prepare a healthy meal. Focus on the importance of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Offer food substitution lists for nutritional cooking and healthy tricks in the kitchen.

Highlight how home cooking can be convenient: Share time-saving methods, such as having a meal with friends or neighbors where everyone prepares part of the meal. You might also suggest online grocers or food delivery services to save time.

Encourage your employees to sit down and eat lunch together:
In a recent Harvard Business Review feature, the writers share research linking communal dining to strong team cohesion. The study observed a firehouse team and the influence that meal prep and dining together has for on-the-job teamwork. They found that since the firefighters plan, cook, clean and pay for meals as a team, it creates a family-like cohesion, ultimately improving team performance when the alarm sounds. To bring your team to the same table, offer free snacks or a catered lunch each month, schedule a team cooking class at a culinary school or host a strictly homemade potluck.

Create a library of healthy cookbooks employees can borrow:
See if you can find a few cookbooks that focus on simple, healthy recipes to share with your team. Beginners’ guides are a great place to start. Call on the knowledge of your employees to fill out the collection by asking them to recommend cookbooks.

Add a dash of creativity to your communications: Toss in a pinch of chef terminology to spice up the conversation on cooking (and dining) together and its many health benefits. This is a good resource to fire up the topic. You can also select a health food or recipe from around the globe to indulge the cultural influence of food.

When your team’s cooking is imbued with health, how could the rippling results be anything but?

Promoting a home-cooking culture in your workplace as well as encouraging your team to dine together may improve healthier lifestyles and team performance.