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Natural Awakenings

Home is Where the Healthy Meal Is: Home-cooked Food Tends to be More Nutritious

Oct 31, 2011 10:50AM

One of the joys of heading home for the holidays is the anticipation of gathering around the table with loved ones and enjoying delicious foods. But we do well to indulge in
the home-cooked meal experience on non-holidays, as well. Foods prepared away from home, including fast food eaten at home and store-prepared food eaten away from home, tend to fuel an increase in total calorie intake. Conversely, eating at home is linked with healthier choices.

According to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, both the eating location and food source significantly impact the daily calorie intake of school-age children and may be linked to rising rates of childhood obesity. The study found that the percentage of calories eaten away from home increased from 23.4 to 33.9 percent from 1977 to 2006.

A new study from McGill University, based on data from 160 women, further suggests that a home-cooked meal can prompt people to make healthier and more nutritional food choices. The women in the study tended to reach more for the greens, rather than high-calorie desserts.

Reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers suggest that when we eat at home, emotionally rewarding factors like contentedness may help override our wired-in preference for high-fat, sugary foods. The findings point to factors that may encourage healthy eating such as interpersonal communication, home design and atmospheric cues, including pleasing music, dining landscape and kitchen equipment; all have all been found to induce positive emotions.

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