A typical Ghanaian home does not go a day or two without freshly prepared meals. Food aside providing energy and nutrients, serves as a means for families to socialize and bond. In some homes, supper is served when all members are around and is eaten at one table. Eating together at a table subconsciously controlled overeating and also minimized consumption of junk foods.
Geographical location, culture, social background, career, amongst others influence the kind of food one consumes. In the past, our mothers if not everyday, cooked meals for all the family and therefore buying foods from local joints, restaurants, etc was very rare. Rather, one got the opportunity to enjoy meals from restaurants during special occasions such as birthdays, graduation or other special events.
In recent times, food has become convenient, with the increasing number of shops, supermarkets and malls, packaged foods has become readily available and accessible to consumers. Additionally, many have opted for readily cooked meals from food service providers by ordering online , or picking up at sales points.
Gone are the days when women were restricted in taking up roles outside homes, and advancing their career life. Today, there are many women in the work sector contributing tremendously to the development of the country. This however has caused a decrease in the frequency at which meals were cooked in homes. Many homes lately sort after processed foods and other foods that require less processing. Therefore cooking meals from scratch i.e. using fresh vegetables, grains, etc is gradually becoming a secondary option with processed foods becoming mainstream.
Processed foods have significantly dropped time spent in processing food such as cleaning and cooking. Example, with products such as potato chips one avoids all the hurdle in washing, peeling and chopping before frying. However there have been some disadvantages especially associated to weight gain due to the easy availability and accessibility to processed foods, their ease in preparation and even their nutritional composition.
In weight management, knowing the amount of energy (calories) one gains from their diet influences their food choices and this is one advantage packaged foods have over home cooked meals. Most packaged foods have the nutritional information indicated on their packaging which usually serve as a guide for consumers on the amount of the product to consume as well as the nutrients it may provide. Even though most packaged foods come with these information, many consumers do not read and even when they do, cannot properly interpret.
Most home cooked meals are prepared using fresh ingredients, these ingredients are usually sold without any packaging information and therefore may be difficult in determining how much calories they may contain. In recent times, some improvement have been seen on the local market where small scale businesses have adopted improving the packaging of some of our local ingredients such as gari, palm oil, local rice, amongst others. Knowing how much energy is derived from each food enables one make informed decision about their food portions and even health choices.
Despite the fact that home cooked meals are prepared mainly from ingredients that are not prepackaged, for many years these same ingredients were used in preparing foods for the family and maintained healthy body weights amongst individuals. In rural areas where locals depend mainly on produce from their farms in preparing their meals, non-communicable diseases such as obesity rates are lower than in the urban areas where most people resort to refined and processed foods.
It may be difficult to prepare meals every single day due to our busy schedules, however, one has an upper hand over their health and diet when they cook their own meals. With ingredients such as oil, spices, additives, etc, one has a better judgement and control over how much to include or exclude in their meals.
Nutrition is very vital in the development and upbringing of a child. Poor nutrition may result in children with low mental capacity, and could even end to child mortality. These days, child obesity is becoming alarming in the urban areas as many children are introduced to highly processed and refined foods at a very early stage and miss out on many vital nutrients required for a healthy growth. It is therefore essential that families re-cultivate the habit of cooking own meals using ingredients that composite a balanced diet.
Home-cooked meals may not give us a clear indication of how much calories we gain from consuming them but they are mainly prepared out of ingredients that have undergone minimal to no processing such as vegetables and grains and therefore are able to maintain and sustain a healthy body weight when consumed as part of a balanced diet.