FRIDAY, March 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) — If you’re eager to save money while eating right, stick close to your own kitchen, researchers say.
“Frequent eating out was associated with lower diet quality, more ’empty calories’ and higher diet costs” compared to home cooking, said study author Adam Drewnowski.
The findings come from surveys of more than 400 Seattle-area residents.
The healthier-at-home results shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Lona Sandon, a Dallas nutritionist who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Preparing your food at home gives you control over what goes on your plate,” said Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Americans spend half their food dollars on meals consumed outside the home, but only about one in five meets nutritional recommendations set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Moreover, by the 1990s Americans were getting about one-third of their daily calories outside the home, the researchers said.
With that in mind, between 2011 and 2013 they questioned 437 adults between the ages of 21 and 55 who were the principal food shoppers in their household.
They asked how often they had eaten in or eaten out in the prior week. “Outside” included restaurants, fast-food locales, food stands, grocery stores and vending machines.
In turn, the nutritional value of each participant’s diet was measured according to the U.S. Healthy Eating Index (HEI). This assesses whether someone gets the right combination of fruit, vegetables and other nutritional elements.
Roughly half the participants frequently cooked dinner at home — six times or more a week, the team found. One-third cooked dinner often (four to five times a week), while about 15 percent rarely did so (three or fewer times a week).
Those who ate more frequently at home scored higher on the healthy eating index than the others.
They also spent less overall — on food consumed outside and at home — than those who ate out more often.