The Case for Home-Cooked Meals

Family having dinner in greenhouse, passing bread
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We already know that we as a nation dine out too much and too often, and the consumption of fast food in particular has been linked to the obesity epidemic. Now researchers are discovering even more benefits of eating at home.

Benefits of Eating at Home

A study presented at the 2015 American Heart Association meeting in Orlando found that both women and men who prepared meals at home were less likely to gain weight.

They were also less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, the researchers, including lead author Geng Zong, PhD, research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, found that people who ate an average of 11 to 14 lunches and dinners prepared at home each week had a 13% lower risk of developing obesity and Type 2 diabetes as compared with those who ate zero to six home-prepared lunches and dinners.

These results were reported at the meeting to be based on data accumulated from nearly 100,000 health professionals over 26 years. The participants included nearly 60,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and over 40,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Eating Out Associated With Weight Gain

Other studies have connected eating away from home, especially consumption of fast food, to overweight and obesity in children and young adults.

According to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, over one-third of children and adolescents are consuming fast food on any given day.

As the CDC notes, “Consumption of fast food has been linked to weight gain in adults.” Poor nutrition choices with calorie-dense foods have also been linked to childhood obesity.

In addition, fast food is known to have high sodium and saturated fat contents, which are known to lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease over the long term.

In contrast, foods cooked at home often have higher dietary quality and less sodium and saturated fat.

In one analysis of nearly 10,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2010, researchers concluded that “cooking dinner frequently at home is associated with consumption of a healthier diet whether or not one is trying to lose weight.”

Sources:

Vikraman S, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Caloric intake from fast food among children and adolescents in the United States, 2011 – 2012. NCHS Data Brief No. 213, September 2015. Accessed online at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db213.htm on September 25, 2015.

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011 – 2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814.

American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2015 Daily News. TriStar Publishing, Inc. November 9, 2015.

Woflson JA, Bleich SN. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutr 2015;18:1397-406.

Laska MN, Larson NI, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M. Does involvement in food preparation track from adolescence to young adulthood and is it associated with better dietary quality? Findings from a 10-year longitudinal study. Public Health Nutr 2012;15:1150-8.

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