It’s been said the most powerful tool we have for health is our fork. For those working on weight management and maintenance, cooking and eating more meals at home might be the key to success. Researchers examining the impact of eating meals out of the home recruited over 1000 men and women and monitored their food choices for one week. Participants in the trial kept food diaries and took photos of all the foods they ate. GPS monitors were also worn by participants so the location of meals could be accurately observed.
At the end of the study researchers found restaurant meals were 60% larger than meals eaten at home. This jump in portion size caused people in the study to eat more than they normally would. ‘Normal weight’ participants, who averaged 550 calories at home, ate up 825 calories at a restaurant. ‘Overweight or obese’ participants, who averaged 625 calories at home, would eat 900 calories in a restaurant. When you consider that Canadian households eat out for meals and snacks 520 times a year this becomes a problem. It’s not just about calories but the total nutrition that restaurant meals may or may not provide. In a separate study examining the impact of restaurant meals on total diet, researchers found that eating meals outside of the home was significantly associated with lower intakes of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, calcium and iron were highlighted as micronutrients of concern.
Both research and our instinct tell us that the more often we cook and eat at home, the better it will be for our waistlines and our health. To reclaim our health we need to reclaim our kitchens. This year Nutrition Month is dedicated to helping you put your “Best Food Forward” to plan, shop, cook and enjoy food in new ways. For advice, tips and recipes, visit: www.dietitiansns.com.
*Statistics Canada; 2006
*Obes Rev. 2012;13(4):329-346