When it comes to cooking healthy, homemade meals, most people aren’t on board.

They either don’t like to cook, or think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth the effort especially after factoring in work, kids’ after-school activities and sports, and everything else that has to get done each day.

In fact, according to data collected by Eddie Yoon, a researcher and consultant for the consumer packaged goods industry, a whopping 45 percent of people hate to cook and 35 are lukewarm about it.

Our dislike for cooking however, is surprising considered the surge in meal kit subscriptions, food delivery apps, restaurants who offer on-the-go ordering, the popularity of cooking shows and Tasty-style videos and the rise of cookbook sales in 2018.

Despite our near-obsession with food and cooking, Americans still spend more money eating out than they do on groceries.

Dining out and ordering in may be quicker, easier, and tastier, but the reality is that doing so is slowly killing our kids.

Not only are we facing a childhood obesity epidemic and more kids than ever are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, but studies show our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than older generations.

Fat or skinny however, all kids are at risk.

According to a May 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics, 37 percent of kids who have a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar.

One of the reasons kids are sicker than ever is because they’re not given enough opportunities to learn how to cook and actually see what a healthy meal looks like.

The truth is that cooking can save your kid’s life. Here’s why.

1. Cooking makes kids healthier—physically and mentally

Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall.

In fact, according to a February 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, kids who share family meals together have higher fitness levels, drink less sugary soft drinks, and seem to have better social skills.

Studies also show that kids who eat with their families are less likely to have an eating disorder or become obese and family meals are linked to lower rates of depression, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, better grades and higher levels of self-esteem.

Conversations had around the table may even improve a child’s vocabulary and help them become more resilient.

2. Cooking puts an end to picky eating

If your kid is a picky eater, eating out may seem like an easy solution especially if the restaurant you’re dining in has a kid’s menu.

But feeding kids what they want instead of what they need only reinforces the picky eating pattern.

We tell ourselves (and others), “my kid will only eat X,Y, and Z,” or “there’s no way my kid will eat that,” and that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Dinner may not always be peaceful but when your kids eat a homemade meal and there are no other options, it’s one of the best ways to get them out of their picky eating behaviors.

The more opportunities kids have to enjoy healthy meals and the only choice is what’s being served, they’re more likely to at least try it.

3. Cooking shows kids what real food looks like

Instead of eating out where French fries is the side dish, meals aren’t served with vegetables and everything is smothered in cheese or a sauce, cooking at home gives kids plenty of opportunities to learn what real, fresh food and healthy, balanced meals actually look like.

Cooking means meals are healthier and portions are smaller

A December 2016 study in Nutrition Today found most items on kid’s menus at the top 200 restaurant chains in the U.S. contained 147 more calories than what experts recommend.

When you eat out with your kids, you could avoid the kids menu and instead order a salad and a healthy appetizer, for example.

But since most restaurant meals are 2 to 3 times larger than what they should be, chances are the portions will still be too large. What’s more, most restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium and unhealthy fats. 

Cooking at home lets you control the ingredients, the cooking method and the portion sizes.

4. Cooking strengthens family bonds

Life gets hectic when you have kids and families don’t spend nearly as much time as they’d like.

In fact, a March 2018 study commissioned by Visit Anaheim found Americans spend just 37 minutes of “quality” time together during the week.

The more time you spend together around the dinner table, the more opportunities there are to share stories, resolve conflict, share positive moments from your day and strengthen family bonds.

5. Cooking prepares kids for real life

You may not like to cook, but cooking is a life skill your kids will need, just like doing laundry and cleaning a home.

Sure, you can hire someone to do just about any errand or chore, but if you want to raise kids who are self-sufficient and not lean on mom or dad for everything, teaching them how to cook is key.

Teaching kids basic cooking skills like how to measure ingredients, chop vegetables, use appliances and follow a recipe, are skills that will carry them through life and ensure they’ll put their health first.

6. Cooking keeps kids with food allergies safe

If you have a child with food allergies, you know that going out to eat—or eating anywhere other than your home—is seriously nerve-wracking.

Although you’ll tell your server about your kid’s food allergies, ask the kitchen to use a clean pan and urge them to avoid cross contamination, anything can happen and unfortunately, you can’t put the onus on the restaurant.

When you cook at home, you don’t have to worry about food allergies, and you know your kid will be safe.