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It's probably obvious to most that a meal cooked at home is usually healthier than one eaten in a restaurant. Here's a fact that isn't so obvious: research shows that people who cook more of their meals at home make better choices even on the occasions when they do dine out.
In 2014, Johns Hopkins researchers Julia Wolfson and Sara Bleich published a study in the journal Public Health Nutrition looking at the effects of cooking at home on the overall quality of a person's diet. They examined two years of data from a national health and nutrition survey and found that people who cooked at home six to seven times per week ate significantly fewer calories overall than those who cooked one time or fewer per week—a difference of roughly 150 calories per day. Those who cooked at home most of the week also ate significantly fewer carbohydrates, less fat and sugar, and more fiber than those who didn't cook as much.
Here's the most interesting part: on average, those who regularly cooked meals at home made healthier choices at all times, regardless of whether they stayed in or went out to eat. According to the study's press release, "The researchers also found that those who cook at home more frequently rely less on frozen foods and are less likely to choose fast foods on the occasions when they eat out."
For those who want the calorie-cutting benefits of cooking at home, one of the biggest barriers is time: shopping for ingredients and figuring out what to make, in addition to actual cooking time, is daunting. Cook-at-home delivery services like Home Chef provide much of the convenience of restaurant dining—no extra trips to the grocery store or tracking down that mesquite chicken recipe required—while still giving at-home cooking benefits like understanding healthy serving sizes. (Get $30 off your first Home Chef order when you use the code CURIOUS.)
The Weight Of Your Wallet
A number of other studies have shown even more benefits to home cooking. Research presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in 2014 showed that children in families where parents spent more time preparing meals at home tended to choose lower-calorie meals than children whose parents dined out more.
In a 2017 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a study showed that cooking at home isn't just associated with a healthier diet, but also with a fatter wallet: frequent home cooks in the study spent about $60 per month less on food than the least frequent cooks. That study also busted a common myth, since it showed that the amount someone dined out or cooked at home had no relationship to their education or their income. Whether you're more worried about your wallet or your waistline, one thing is clear: cooking at home is your best bet.