Eating and cooking at home can be fun: trying new foods, experimenting with different recipes, and baking your hundredth loaf of banana bread.
But, can eating at home help you lose weight? Regardless of whether you’re eating out or at home, you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. This means consuming fewer calories than you’re burning. In saying that though, eating at home can definitely make it easier to ensure that you are in a caloric deficit and that you remain in one.
So while eating at home doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be eating in a deficit, it does make it much easier to get you there. In this article, I’ll share all the reasons why that is and how to do it.
How Do You Lose Weight?
To put it simply, losing, gaining or maintaining your weight all comes down to your calorie expenditure—calories in vs calories out. Let’s start at the beginning.
Everyone has maintenance calories, that is, the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight.
You won’t lose any weight on these calories nor will you gain. This is because this number will be roughly the same as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
TDEE refers to the number of calories you burn, which consists of the energy it takes for your body to fidget in your seat, blink, breathe, move around as well as any exercise you do. It covers all your most basic bodily functions and any additional activity.
Now, to be in a deficit, you have to eat fewer calories than your maintenance calories. Do this and you will lose weight.
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Determining Your Caloric Deficit
To work out your caloric deficit, first, you need to determine your maintenance calories.
There are plenty of online calculators that require you to fill in an online form and it’ll generate your maintenance calories.
Some questions you can expect are your weight, height, sex, activity level (are you on your feet or day or sitting at a desk?) and exercise level. The key is to be honest with your answers. Don’t say that you do heavy exercise when you really only do light exercise, otherwise, your maintenance calories will be off.
So, back to your maintenance calories. Once you get your numbers, it’s best to eat at these calories for a few weeks and measure your weight. If it remains the same, then they are your maintenance calories.
Now that you have your maintenance calories, you need to identify if you want a slow and steady approach, a moderate deficit or something a bit more aggressive. This will determine how many calories you’ll drop, typically ranging from 300-500 calories.
Bear in mind though, faster is not always better.
By drastically dropping your calories, you risk losing a lot more muscle as well as fat, not to mention, adherence will be harder as you might find yourself hungrier than usual.
A slower pace means that you’ll lose weight slower but you’ll have a higher chance of maintaining as much muscle as possible as well as the ability to stick to your calories.
Find that sweet spot for you.
How Can Eating At Home Help You Lose Weight?
Here are all the reasons why it’s easier to lose weight while eating at home.
1. YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE EATING
When you’re eating at home and cooking your own meals, you know exactly what you’re putting on your plate and subsequently, in your body. You can make better food choices that best suits your caloric and nutritional needs while still eating delicious food. There are no surprises and you can make all the choices.
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2. YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR INGREDIENTS
Another way eating at home can help you lose weight is by giving you the control on how much of each ingredient or food you want to eat. When it comes to eating out, you don’t have much say as to the ratio of carbs, fats, protein or vegetables you have on your plate but at home, you definitely do.
For example, if you want to eat a lasagne but want to add more vegetables to it, you can. You can even swap out a layer of pasta sheets for a vegetable-based one like sliced eggplant or zucchini. Or if ramen is your thing, you can up the vegetable and protein portion and have fewer carbs if you want, or if you’re the opposite and love those noodles, then amp up the carbs instead.
It’s completely up to you how you want the ratio for your food to look like according to your needs.
Other hidden ingredients that you may not see such as oil, is going to be within your control as well. While there’s nothing wrong with oil and it does contain a dose of good healthy fats, it’s common knowledge that it’s something that eateries don’t use sparingly. But in your kitchen, you can if you need to.
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3. YOU’RE IN CHARGE OF PORTION SIZES
Portion size is another aspect of eating that you can control at home. Eating out may give you bigger portions than you need (and sadly also smaller portions) but at home you can find the size that best suits you.
For some people also, bigger portions at restaurants means that you eat it even if you don’t want to because you’re paying for it and it happens to be sitting right in front of you (and not every place offers takeaway).
When you cook at home, you know how much it’ll take for you to be satisfied and satiated and you can put the rest away to have for later. Controlling how much you eat can make a huge difference in your adherence to a calorie deficit, and hence weight loss.
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4. YOU CHOOSE THE COOKING METHOD
Eating at home means that you’re in charge of how you cook your food.
While, of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating fried food for example, it does use more calories than other methods such as baking or steaming.
So, if you find that on some days, you need to use fewer calories while cooking, opting to steam your vegetables or bake your chicken might be the better option.
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5. YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO MEAL PREP
Meal prepping is a really great way to help you follow your deficit while also eliminating the cooking and washing time.
By increasing how much you eat at home, you can start to get used to being in the kitchen and making your own meals. It isn’t a required task to do meal prep if you’re at home but most people find that planning their meals and prepping them in advance can help them stick to it.
If the thought of doing so overwhelms you though, start small.
Maybe prep just for the first 2-3 days or maybe just your lunches for the week. Then, you can start prepping for the entire week once you get used to it.
Eating at home more often can get you into the habit of cooking your own food and preparing your meals in advance which increases your chances of success.
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Tips On How To Actually Stick to Your Calorie Deficit While Eating At Home
Now that we know how to lose weight and why it’s easier to do so while eating at home, here are some tips on how to actually do it.
1. READ NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Food and liquid have a caloric value.
For example, spinach has a much lower caloric value than something like pasta. Even different brands and types of pasta may have different caloric values.
One way to determine the calories is to learn how to read the nutrition labels on the food packaging and see their calo
rie count as well as the macronutrient breakdown (carbohydrates, protein and fat). It will help you identify the best products to consume while in a deficit.
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2. WEIGH YOUR FOOD
Weighing your food can really assist in your portion sizes. You’ll be surprised by just how little 1 serving size of cereal actually is or how many calories is actually in that tablespoon of peanut butter.
Weighing your food can take the guesswork out of how much you’re eating and the subsequent calories being consumed, to ensure you’re still eating less than what you’re burning. It brings accuracy to the table.
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3. EAT FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FULL
Making sure that what you’re eating actually makes you satiated is key to keeping to a deficit.
If you’re finding yourself feeling ravenous, you’re more likely to gorge on food when you finally do eat, making it harder to consume fewer calories than you burn. Some ways to keep fuller for longer is by eating a good amount of protein, fats and fiber. While they each have their own unique functions in the body, they also work similarly in satiating your hunger.
Making better food choices is pivotal in keeping to a deficit to lose weight.
Sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating chocolate or cake or any of that good stuff that’s been labelled as “unhealthy” by the industry. In fact, they are healthy for you in moderation to keep you mentally sane.
But for the majority of the time, choosing foods that you know will be able to fill you up for long periods of time will certainly make your life easier because you’ll be less hungry, meaning fewer trips to the fridge.
4. WORK OUT WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU
While your meal frequency, i.e. how often you eat, doesn’t matter when it comes to being in a caloric deficit, knowing what works best for your body can help you adhere to it.
Some people prefer to eat 6 smaller meals throughout the day so they’re constantly grazing and feeling like they’re eating a lot. Others might prefer 3 bigger meals with less snacking in between to keep them out of the kitchen and prevent overeating.
There are those who like intermittent fasting so that the smaller eating window makes them feel like they’re consuming enough while some people can eat super early in the morning all the way to late at night.
There is actually no right answer. Your meal frequency and timing should be suited to your needs and what’ll help you follow your deficit without making you not miserable or hungry.
It might involve some trial and error but once you identify these factors, you’ll find that it’ll be so much easier.
5. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Of course, staying hydrated is really pivotal. There are many times when people can mistake their thirst for hunger, so making sure that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day can keep you hydrated.
Water is a great choice because it’s good for you and it’s calorie free. So by choosing to drink water instead of other liquids that may be higher in calories, you reduce your liquid caloric intake. However, even if you can’t live without your coffee with cream and sugar or your coca cola, it’s still important that you’re drinking water regularly throughout the day. It’ll assist in reducing your water weight which can also eliminate bloat, not to mention ensuring that your body is functioning optimally.
A good tip to know whether or not you’re hydrated is by paying attention to the color of your urine when you use the bathroom. The more yellow it is, the more dehydrated you are. If it’s pale in color, then you’re doing well with your water intake.
6. SLEEP WELL
A bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling cranky and tired and more likely to eat lots and lots of feel-good foods that may be great in moderation but can easily tip you over your deficit. By sleeping well, not only will you be physically and mentally well, but it will also help you make better food choices the next day which will help if you’re eating at home.
Not only that, but sleep directly impacts your two hunger hormones: Ghrelin and Leptin.
Ghrelin is the hormone that signals to you that you’re hungry, with ghrelin levels dropping after you eat when you’re no longer hungry.
Leptin is the hormone that tells you when you’re full and suppresses your hunger. According to this study, participants with shorter amounts of sleep had higher ghrelin levels and lower leptin. This explains why you might find yourself eating more after a bad night’s sleep so catch up on those zzz’s.
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You don’t have to completely shun eating out but it is true that eating at home does give you back certain control over variables that make losing weight much easier. Being in charge of exactly what goes on your plate and in your body can mean the difference between being in a caloric deficit or not, and hence, whether you’re losing weight.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.