With our busy schedules, it can be much easier to eat out rather than exerting energy to prepare meals at home. Do we miss out when we eat out? A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that there is a difference between how healthy and how expensive foods are when people cook at home compared to when they eat at a restaurant.
The study interviewed adults in Kings County, Seattle. To determine how healthy the meals were, participants’ diets were rated based on the Healthy Eating Index, a tool developed by the USDA to gauge how balanced a person’s diet is. This tool considers foods you should include in your diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and nutrients you should limit such as sodium, refined grains and empty calories (calories that provide no nutritional value). Participants also reported the amount of money spent per month for food cooked at home and for food they ate out.
The results were astounding. Individuals who reported cooking at home consumed healthier meals compared to those who reported eating out more. Cooking was found to be cost effective too, saving $57 each month.
Bottom Line: Cooking food at home can be an excellent strategy to eat healthier because you control the ingredients in your meal. It is easier to control or limit the amount of sodium, saturated fat, added sugar and refined grains when you purchase and prepare the meals. Restaurants are notorious for caloric meals and staggering portion sizes. Cooking at home saves money because, unlike a restaurant or food establishment, you do not incur any additional costs besides the cost of purchasing the food (such as labor, operating costs, etc.). Cooking at home is a great way to make better choices for your health and your money.
Written by: Melissa Kowalkski, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern