who eschew takeout for home cooking eat healthier foods,
whether they aim to or not, according to new research from
the Johns Hopkins University.
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 ó even if they are not trying to lose
weight," said Julia A. Wolfson, the lead author of the
study and a fellow at the Center for a Livable Future at
Hopkinsí Bloomberg School of Public Health.
findings may be obvious to some, or at least reassuring to
others, but they could have implications for the obesity
epidemic facing adults and children in the United States if
enough people are persuaded to cook their own meals.
a trained chef, said some people donít think they know how
to cook or donít think they have the time. Others may not
have ready access to healthy ingredients, such as fresh
produce. Many people are just out of the habit.
said cooking at home doesnít have to be fancy or
expensive, and most people just need a kick-start, like a
cooking class, menu advice or tips to navigate grocery
the study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition,
Wolfson and others analyzed data from a national survey of
9,000 adults about what they ate.
percent who cooked only once a week or less consumed an
average of 2,301 calories, 84 grams of fat and 135 grams of
sugar a day. The 48 percent who cooked dinner six or seven
nights a week consumed 2,164 calories, 81 grams of fat and
119 grams of sugar a day.
who cooked at home tended to rely less on frozen food and
were less likely to eat fast food when they dined out.
People in African-American households cooked less often than
those in white households, and people who worked full time
away from home cooked less often.
results were no surprise to Susanna DeRocco, who helps
individuals, families, schools and others get on track in
the kitchen with advice and recipes through workshops and
her website, HealthyBodiesHappyMinds.org. She said meals can
be made even healthier with some thought.
people just donít know where to start and feel overwhelmed
by the idea of cooking, she said. The certified health
coach, nutritional counselor and Towson mother advises
people to start small and simple.
day, like Sunday, find one or two easy recipes online, and
go to the store. After getting comfortable making a few
meals, consider making a double batch and freezing half, or
at least figuring out a second use for the leftovers.
rice was part of a stir fry one night and covered in beans
the next, she said. Or the pasta gets customized with
slightly different toppings to please different tastes in
DeRocco said, do some food preparation in advance of the
workweek, like chopping vegetables, so everything is ready
to go ó this may even be a money saver as people use the
produce they buy rather than throwing it away.
people I know struggle in the planning," she said.
"Theyíre coming home at 6 and opening the fridge or
pantry and saying, ĎWhat am I going to do?í Thatís
what you want to avoid. And you can, with a little
at home is mostly about developing a habit, DeRocco said,
and "not letting Pinterest or Martha Stewart intimidate
Manuel, a mother of 7-year-old Chloe and 9-year-old Burke,
sought help from DeRocco about two years ago to develop that
kind of routine, though she, her children and her husband
all eat at different times and donít all like the same
felt like a 24-hour buffet," she said.
was heartened to hear that just eating at home meant they
were likely eating healthier than families that donít, but
she wanted to do better.
now tries to feed the family some of the same things, or
variations of them. She plans, shops and preps ingredients
on the weekends and stows batches of food in the freezer.
She acknowledges doing better for her kids than for herself.
not as disciplined as I should be," she said. "I
need to sit down and eat a meal and not snack in between
everyone elseís meals. Ö When I stick to it, I feel a
lot better. When Iím off track, I can definitely
help meet its goal of reducing heart disease by 20 percent
by 2020, the American Heart Association offers basic cooking
classes with chef Tia Berry.
said the organization wanted to help people not only cook at
home but make healthier choices about ingredients.
has drastically increased across the nation over the past
two decades, with more than a third of adults and 17 percent
of children now in that category, according to U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention data. That has
contributed to an increase in rates of heart disease,
stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, and $147 billion
in additional annual health spending.
said if people are trying to make lifestyle changes and cook
at home, it would be easy to improve the nutritional value
of the food. For example, make potato or other salads with a
vinaigrette rather than a mayonnaise base, and donít
offer recipes that are easy and familiar, like fajitas,
chili and salad, that are heart-healthy and not anything too
complicated," said Berry about the 10 Simple Cooking
with Heart Kitchen classes the association offered in
Baltimore. There are also recipes and tutorials on the
not five-star restaurant food," she said, "but it
is things that people are comfortable with and are not as
said most people eat the same things over and over, so itís
a matter of choosing a few healthy recipes and practicing.
dinner at home regularly requires a lifestyle change, but,
Berry added, "it doesnít have to be complicated. You
just need to pay attention to what youíre eating."