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Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Susanna Mills, Dr Heather BrownORCiD, Dr Wendy Wrieden, Professor Martin White



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


BackgroundReported associations between preparing and eating home cooked food, and both diet and health, are inconsistent. Most previous research has focused on preparing, rather than eating, home cooked food; used small, non-population based samples; and included only markers of nutrient intake, rather than overall diet quality or health. We aimed to assess whether the frequency of consuming home cooked meals was associated with diet quality and cardio-metabolic health.MethodsWe used baseline data from a United Kingdom population-based cohort study (n=11,396). Participants self-reported their frequency of consuming home cooked main meals. Diet quality was assessed using the Mediterranean Diet Score, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) score, fruit and vegetable intake calculated from a 130-item food frequency questionnaire, and plasma vitamin C. Markers of cardio-metabolic health were researcher-measured body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat, haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), cholesterol and hypertension.ResultsEating home cooked meals more frequently was associated with greater adherence to DASH and Mediterranean diets, greater fruit and vegetable intakes and higher plasma vitamin C, in adjusted models. Those eating home cooked meals more than five times, compared with less than three times per week, consumed 62.3 grams more fruit (99%CI 43.2 to 81.5) and 97.8 grams more vegetables (99%CI 84.4 to 111.2) daily.More frequent consumption of home cooked meals was associated with greater likelihood of having normal range BMI and normal percentage body fat. Associations with HbA1c, cholesterol and hypertension were not significant in adjusted models. Those consuming home cooked meals more than five times, compared with less than three times per week, were 28% less likely to have an overweight BMI (99%CI 8 to 43%), and 24% less likely to have excess percentage body fat (99%CI 5 to 40%).These data are cross-sectional and therefore direction of causation cannot be established.ConclusionsIn a large population-based cohort study, eating home cooked meals more frequently was associated with better dietary quality and lower adiposity. Further research is required to identify whether consumption of home cooked meals has causal effects on diet and health, and how to support this at individual and population levels.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mill SDH, Brown H, Wrieden WL, White M, Adams J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Year: 2017

Volume: 14

Online publication date: 17/08/2017

Acceptance date: 09/08/2017

Date deposited: 24/08/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1479-5868

Publisher: BioMed Central


DOI: 10.1186/s12966-017-0567-y


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Funder referenceFunder name
MR/K02325X/1Medical Research Council (MRC)
National Institute for Health Research
Medical Research Council.
Wellcome Trust