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Home cook better for health: study

Editor: Wang Lingxiao 丨Xinhua

04-30-2017 10:44 BJT

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 (Xinhua) -- A new study suggests that the best culinary paths to better health are not always paved with cash, as cooking at home can provide the best bang-for-the-buck nutritionally as well as financially.

"Traditionally better socioeconomic status -- more money -- means healthier people," said Arpita Tiwari, a health systems researcher at Oregon State University (OSU).

"This research goes against that; it shows a resilience to that trend. It's not spending more but how you spend that's important. What you eat is important."

In a paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Tiwari confirms what many mothers and grandmothers have said for decades: that habitually eating dinner at home means a better diet and lower food expenditures compared with regularly dining out.

The research involved more than 400 adults in the area of Seattle, Washington state, who were surveyed regarding a week's worth of cooking and eating behaviors.

Participants provided various types of sociodemographic information, and their weekly food intake was graded using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better diet quality.

An index score over 81 indicates a "good" diet; 51 to 80 means "needs improvement"; and 50 or less is "poor."

Among findings by the researchers, households that cooked at home three times per week showed an average score of about 67 on the Healthy Eating Index; cooking at home six times per week resulted in an average score of around 74.

The findings also suggested that regularly eating home-cooked dinners, associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat, meant meeting more of the guidelines for a healthy diet as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Higher HEI scores are generally associated with higher socioeconomic status, education and income," Tiwari said. "By contrast, cooking dinner at home depends more on the number of children at home. The study showed no association between income or education and eating at home or eating out."

"Our research empirically quantifies that when we regularly eat dinner at home, our nutrition intake is better."

Eighty percent of U.S. residents fail to meet at least some of the federal dietary guidelines, and about half the money spent on eating in the United States is on food not cooked at home, according to the study.

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, the percentage of home-cooked calories consumed fell from 82 to 68.

"A mother who has two jobs and four children, even if she knows the value of home-cooked dinners, doesn't have time to cook," Tiwari was quoted as saying in a news release from OSU.

"Government policy needs to be mindful of things like that when states create programs to help Medicaid populations achieve nutritional goals. Right now our system really does not allow for it. What can the government do about that? That's what needs to be explored in the near future."

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