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Home food environment: a key to effective nutritional choices
A healthful diet is associated with reduced-risk for overweight/obesity and related chronic diseases. The nutritional quality of the food choices people make is influenced by a multitude of factors, and food environment in the home has been shown to be of significant consequence in this regard. Current models of the home food environment include sociocultural factors such as family meal patterns and cooking frequency and ability. Research has shown that increased frequency of family meals is related to healthier diets; however confidence in meal preparation and cooking in general is declining. Further, time spent on food preparation has declined over the last decade. In this edition of the IFAVA Scientific Newsletter, home-cooking and family meal frequency was examined in relation to dietary quality of adults and children.
- Santiago-Torres and colleagues investigated the association between family mealtime practices, home food availability, and parental dietary intake and diet quality in Hispanic children.
- Drewnowski and Monsivais examined food preparation-time in the home in relation to take-out dining frequency, food spending and diet quality in adults.
- Wolfson and Bleich investigated the relationship between cooking frequency, diet quality, and energy intake and whether these relationships differ depending on weight loss intention.
These studies provide evidence that the home food environment plays an important role in shaping the diets of adults and children. In particular, the frequency of home-cooking, the time spent cooking per day, and the frequency of family meals was favorably associated with energy intake in adults and diet quality in adults and children. These studies suggest that cooking skill development with a focus on time-efficient, low cost methods of healthful food preparation should be a key ingredient in nutrition education programming directed at improving diet quality and promoting healthy weight status in adults and youth.