Home Cooking Helps Keep the Calories Down
But veggies at school lunches get left on the plate, say researchers studying healthy eating
MONDAY, Nov. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research on healthy eating has found that home cooking is better than restaurant fare, and that kids who are offered more nutritious food in school cafeterias rarely eat it.
These findings come in two new studies that were to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, in New Orleans.
In the study on meals, researchers found that people who eat the most home-cooked ones end up eating healthier and consuming about 130 fewer calories daily, on average, compared to other people.
"When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less, or not at all -- even if they are not trying to lose weight," study author Julia Wolfson, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Researchers found that those who cooked dinner six to seven times a week ate an average of 2,164 calories daily, while those who ate out the most, cooking dinner no more than once a week, consumed an average of 2,301 calories per day.
The study, based on an analysis of national survey data from 2007-2010, will be published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
"Obesity is an escalating public health problem that contributes to other serious health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease," Wolfson said in a news release from the Bloomberg School. "The evidence shows people who cook at home eat a more healthy diet. Moving forward, it's important to educate the public about the benefits of cooking at home, identify strategies that encourage and enable more cooking at home, and help everyone, regardless of how much they cook, make healthier choices when eating out."
In the other study, the researchers, also from the Bloomberg School, reported that most kids put vegetables on their school lunch trays, but only one in four actually eats any.
"We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it," said Susan Gross, a research associate in the department of population, family and reproductive health, said in the news release. "But our research shows that is not necessarily so."
The findings are based on an analysis of 274 New York City kids in grades K-2 who were observed by researchers during a single lunch period.
Almost 60 percent chose vegetables, but only 24 percent actually ate them. Meanwhile, kids were more likely to finish their food if their teacher ate with them, and distractions appeared to make a difference in consumption of healthy food.
"As much as we are focused on menus in the school lunch program, we need to look more at our cafeteria environments, especially with our youngest children," Gross said. "We can give kids the healthiest food possible, but if they don't have time to eat it or they are distracted by how noisy the cafeteria is, they're not going to eat it."
Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about nutrition, try the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.