Cooking at home? It's likely cheaper and healthier

March 20, 2017 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Cooking at home? It's likely cheaper and healthier

Researchers from the University of Washington School of Public Health have been peeking into kitchens -- via interviews -- for years now. And they've just published results showing people who cook at home more often are likely to eat a healthier overall diet.

Related: Home-cooked meals - with no TV - linked to less obesity

The measurement used to define a healthy diet is called the Healthy Eating Index. It gauges whether a person's diet is giving them the right combination of fruits, vegetables and other components.

As part of the Seattle Obesity Study, researchers interviewed 437 adults, who were asked to remember their last week of eating in and eating out. Researchers supervised the adults answering a questionnaire, with detailed sections on what they ate and where.

The study found that home-cooked dinners were associated with a "greater dietary compliance," meaning the overall weekly diet met more of the federal guidelines for a healthy diet. Households who cooked at home about three times per week showed a score of about 67 on the Healthy Eating Index. Those who cooked at home about six times per week had a score of about 74.

Roughly half of all food dollars in the United States are spent outside the home, which suggests that cooking at home may not be feasible for many people who are time-crunched.

Healthier diets don’t cost more

Public health nutritionists suggest that efforts to promote cooking at home should be balanced with efforts to encourage retailers and restaurants to offer healthy, less expensive prepared foods for easy purchase outside of the home.

Other measures of food consumption use calories instead of dollars. The contribution of away-from-home food to total calories rose from 18 percent in the 1970s to 32 percent by the late 1990s, according to the study. Only one in five U.S. residents meets the dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The study showed there was no increase in costs for eating a healthier diet. Home cooked meals were associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat, but not with higher monthly food expenses.  Frequent eating out was, however, associated with higher food expenditures.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, online, February 28, 2017.

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