There are few things more comforting than walking into the warmth of your own home and smelling something fresh and delicious cooking in the oven or on the stove.
There are also few things as inexpensive as a home-cooked meal when it comes to your food budget — and as healthy for you when it comes to your diet.
Two new studies demonstrate that the more frequently we dine out, the more money we burn and the more calories we consume.
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As part of the Seattle Obesity Study, researchers found that those who cook at home tend to have diets lower in calories, sugar, and fat, but not higher monthly expenses for food. Eating out, on the other hand, meant participants spending more and doing less of all of the good things mentioned above, according to scientists from the University of Washington School of Public Health.
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“Home cooking may be a component of nutrition resilience,” the authors wrote for the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Additionally, Penn State researcher Amit Sharma found that people who dined out frequently tended to underestimate the amount they would spend during the week — so they raised the following week’s dining-out budget.
“Rather than making people smarter consumers, frequent eating out may be associated with their inability to impose mental constraints on buying,” Sharma stated in a media release. “What we saw consistently throughout the study was that when people reported their dining-out budget for the second time during the experiment, it was significantly higher than what they stated the first time.”
Those who ate lunch at restaurants or convenience stores one to two times a week set their mean budget at approximately $13 in Week 1 — only to raise it to $35 in Week 2. For workers who claimed to eat lunch out three or more times a week, the mean budget more than doubled from $55 in Week 2 to $121 in Week 2.
These are expenses that add up quickly for anyone on a tight budget. The money we spend on eating out takes up to nearly half of the food budget in all U.S. households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s a frustrating scenario for health officials — who see the American obesity epidemic and the health problems that come along with it, growing when study after study show that eating out is most often nowhere near as good for us as something we might bring from home.
Health experts continue to say it’s important we all look at smart spending on health and nutrition. And who knows — it could even be fun to dust off a few of those favorite old cookbooks and start using them again.