In the naturalistic fallacy that has swept America, women have been patronized the most. Cultural and corporate evangelists insist you are a bad mother if you don't breastfeed, you are a bad parent if you don't buy organic, and if you are a bad human being if you don't buy everything with the proper self-identification on the label or you don't argue with your doctor about vaccine schedules.
One thing that sounds right, however, is that home-cooked meals are better than store-bought ones. (1) There is some obvious truth to that. I once asked a terrific chef what his secret was and he replied, "Unreal levels of butter." That makes sense, going out is a treat and they want it to be as delicious as possible for you. Enough butter can make a terrible steak pretty good but you aren't going to cook like that at home. Cooking at home and eating as a family also brings any number of sociological benefits. Families that do things together, like have meals, statistically are going to be much closer, and that will lead to a variety of other societal issues being less likely to occur, like crime.
Yet the burden for cooking at home is still going to fall more on mothers than fathers, even though only 20 percent of families today have just the man working. Are kids really going to be healthier if women slog into the kitchen after a long day at their jobs?(2)
Not really, according to a recent analysis. And that includes if the home-cooking is organic. The study looked at the nutritional content, food diversity and cost of 408 home-cooked meals, using recipes from 55 bestselling cookbooks designed infants and kids. On the other side they had 278 prepared meals, 174 of which even claimed they were manufactured using the organic process.
The results showed that parents who just need a break but don't want to feel like their kids will become junkies if they don't home cook a meal can rest easy. The reasons:
Home-cooked meals were more likely to have vegetables but had less variety.
Home-cooked meals were less likely to have meat, though both protein and fat are important for healthy development.
Home-cooked meals had 26 perfect more calories than commercial products.
However, home-cooked meals were half the cost. So oddly, the organic market, which caters more to wealthy elites, are the ones more likely to be able to buy meals at the Whole Foods deli.
Is there a real take-home message? If so, it is spend some time with your kids, have some fun, teach them to be literate, critical thinkers who aren't swayed by corporate messaging suggesting that the label they read will make them superior ethically or nutritionally. Where you got the meal is far less important than that you share the time with them.
(1) In some cases that is clearly not true. KFC built a solid brand because it is not easy to make chicken that good at home. And no, Sourcewatch, they don't put an addictive chemical in it that makes you crave it fortnightly, no matter what the conspiracy theorists you cite claim.
(2) Though mainstream media outlets like the New York Times tend to idealize the 1950s when unions ruled and the woman's place was in the home, things are better today because women have choices. Women have less depression than in the 1950s, and they have better lives overall, including in Europe, because of daycare.