Dining out is becoming increasingly common. Whether it’s for convenience, cost or social reasons, cooking at home with the family is a much less common occurrence than it was in previous generations.
The convenience of eating at a restaurant, picking up fast food or having pre-prepared meals delivered to the doorstep has become more and more popular. While dining out and takeaway food are convenient and may save time, they often come at the expense of good nutrition, with meals prepared out of home often being high in energy, salt and fat, and low in essential micronutrients like vitamin C, iron and calcium. Conversely, home cooked meals enable you to control what goes into the dish and portion size. While home cooking has been associated with lower sugar and reduced fat intake, there is little research on whether eating home cooked meals is linked to lower rates of lifestyle-driven diseases. Researchers investigated this, looking at the association between consuming midday and evening meals that have been prepared at home and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Data was analysed from two large studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), which has been following the health of more than 120,000 female registered nurses for many years, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), which consists of over 50,000 male health professionals.
Participants were given a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study in 1986 and every four years thereafter. The questionnaire assessed their habitual diet including how often their midday and evening meals were prepared at home. Diagnoses of type 2 diabetes were also recorded.
For both men and women, increased consumption of meals prepared at home was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Men and women eating more meals prepared at home also consumed more fruits, vegetables, red meats, dairy products and whole grains. Frequent consumption of meals prepared at home was associated with slower weight gain and lower risk of developing obesity.
These results suggest that there is a benefit to preparing meals at home when it comes to weight control and risk of type 2 diabetes. Cooking at home enables you to control what goes in to the meal and portion sizes. If you’re time-poor, there are a number of chefs who specialise in quick, simple recipes that are nutritious and delicious. Preparing meals at home is also a great way to get the family together and socialise with loved ones.
Reference: Zong, G et al. (2016). Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Med 13(7): e1002052. doi: 10.1371/journal. pmed.1002052.