Time may be one of the most essential ingredients for a healthy diet, finds new research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Spending more time at home preparing meals is associated with several indicators of a better diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables. Conversely, spending less than an hour a day preparing food at home is associated with eating more fast food and spending more money eating out.
The findings are based on responses from 1,319 adults who participated by phone in the Seattle Obesity Study in 2008 and 2009. Participants answered questions about how many hours a day they averaged preparing and cooking food and cleaning up after meals. They also reported on food consumption and spending, as well as use of restaurants. About 16 percent of participants said they spent less than one hour a day on meal preparation. About 43 percent reported spending between one and two hours per day on meal preparation, while 41 percent said they spent more than two hours a day on it.
Employment outside the home was associated with fewer hours spent preparing meals. Notably, about two-thirds of those who reported that they prepped, cooked and cleaned up were women. People with less time available for meal preparation also appear to value convenience, choosing more often to eat out or to buy fast food and ready-made foods to eat at home.
The findings reinforce what previous research has told us that time is perceived as a barrier to healthy eating.
Registered dietitians give close consideration to the issue of time when making recommendations. They give tips on ways to optimize time and money, such as planning meals, shopping ahead and preparing some foods in advance that can allow families to have quick-to-prepare healthy meals and snacks.
Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014.
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