People who cook at home more often are likely to eat a healthier overall diet, according to a study from the University of Washington School of Public Health. It costs less, too.
[Photo: Dr. Adam Drewnowski]
Dr. Adam Drewnowski, professor of epidemiology, and colleagues interviewed 437 adults as part of the Seattle Obesity Study. Participants were asked to remember their last week of eating in and dining out, and to answer detailed sections on what they ate and where.
Researchers 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. 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 elements.
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. Home cooked meals were associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat, but not with higher monthly expenses for food.
“By cooking more often at home, you have a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet at a higher cost,” said Dr. Drewnowski, director of the School’s Center for Public Health Nutrition.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also showed no association between income or education and eating at home or eating out. The 437 people chosen for the study were a stratified random sample.
“People have the preconception that a lower income leads to eating more fast foods, but that was not true in our study,” Dr. Drewnowski said. People who cooked more often at home were likely to have larger households with more children in them.
One of the limitations on the study was that people had to remember everything they ate in the past week. But all nutritional research is done using self-reported information, according to Dr. Drewnowski.
Other researchers were Ms. Arpita Tiwari, a pre-doctoral student at Oregon State University; Dr. Anju Aggarwal, acting assistant professor of epidemiology at the UW; and Mr. Wesley Tang, a former research coordinator at the UW’s Center for Public Health Nutrition.