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March 28, 2011

Eat Well Monday

The amount of money spent on foods prepared outside of the home grew from 34 percent in 1974 to over 50 percent in 2006, according to the USDA. Numerous studies have linked a high prevalence of eating away from the home (at fast food establishments, restaurants, etc.) with an increased risk of weight gain, overweight, and obesity.

A 2007 analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity found that individuals who consumed at least 25 percent of their total daily calories from foods and beverages away from their home were more likely to be sedentary and to have a greater daily energy intake. Similarly, in a 2005 Lancet study of adults aged 18-30 found those who frequently visited fast-food restaurants (more than twice a week) gained 4.5 kg (~10 lbs) more than, and had an increase in insulin resistance twice that of, less-frequent visitors.

Home-prepared meals provide a opporttunity for more balanced and better-portioned meals with fewer calories, sodium and less saturated fat. They can also help you incorporate healthier whole and unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean meats, into your daily diet. More often, they save you a few extra dollars.

However, reliance on pre-made meals and convenience foods (i.e., frozen meals, take-out, “box dinners,” etc.) at home will generally not offer the same benefits as meals prepared from scratch. Pre-made foods are usually packed with excess calories, sodium, and chemical additives and lthey ack essential vitamins and nutrients that are present in fresh, wholesome food items. Making meals from scratch allows you to control the ingredients that go into your meals so you can ensure that you are achieving your and your family’s nutritional needs. By taking just a little bit of time each week to plan ahead, you can have fresh and healthy home-cooked meals ready-to-go in no time!

Here are some simple steps to bring out the cook in everyone.

For more information on healthy cooking, visit,,, or to see details of U.S. food expenditures throughout the past century. To find out more on the relationship between eating out and body weight, go to or read the full studies described above: and

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.