Spending more time at home preparing meals has been linked with a having a better over-all diet, including eating more fruits and vegetables. Less time spent prepping for home-cooked meals--less than an hour a day--is associated with eating more fast food and with more eating out.
This means that time may be just as important a part of eating healthier as ingredients and money. The lack of time to prepare and cook meals appears to be a barrier to eating healthier.
The study, published in a recent issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine and reported by Health Behavior News Service, is based on the Seattle Obesity Study, a survey of adults in Seattle that was conducted in 2008 and 2009. People who took part were asked about their diet, how much time they usually spent prepping for meals, how long it took them to cook the meals, and how long to clean up afterward.
About 16 percent of participants said they spent less than one hour a day on meal preparation, while 41 percent said they spent more than two hours preparing meals.
People who worked outside the home reported spending fewer hours preparing meals. About two in three of those who reported they did most of the meal preparation and clean up were women. People who said they had less time available for meal preparation also appear to value convenience. They chose to eat out more often, eat fast food, or purchase ready-made foods to eat at home.
Few studies have been done of the time factor in eating a health diet, according to the lead author on the study, Pablo Monsivais, Ph.D., M.P.H., who is a senior university lecturer with the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine in England.