Home is where the healthy meal is

Researchers find that people tend to eat more nutritious meals at home than when they eat out.

August 2, 2011 17:48
1 minute read.
CHICKEN SOUP for the bowl.

Chicken 311. (photo credit: Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Even as the idea of a traditional family meal around the table at home is on the decline, researchers have found that people tend to eat more nutritious meals at home than when they eat out.

"Over the course of evolution in a world of food scarcity, humans and animals alike have been biologically programmed to elicit more powerful food reward responses to high-caloric foods" than to less-fattening fare, the study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes.

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The research suggests that home is known to be where people feel most content, and this causes people to be in a better mood, which in turn leads them to think more about healthy food. The positive emotions often associated with home-cooked meals may be part of the recipe for a healthy diet.

That cycle of positive reinforcement was more pronounced at home than elsewhere, researchers found.  The report, by Prof. Ji Lu of Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Catherine Huet, and Prof.. Laurette Dubé of McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management, concludes that "the home is a privileged environment that nurtures healthy eating and in which healthier food choices trigger and are triggered by more positive emotions."

The researchers suggest that the findings provide insights that point toward novel strategies to encourage healthy eating. Such strategies could rely on factors such as "interpersonal communications, home design and atmospheric cues" including "music, dining landscape, and kitchen equipment, which have all been found to induce positive emotions in both everyday and laboratory contexts."

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