At the James Beard Food Conference last month, the topic of eating real, whole foods, mostly cooked at home, came up frequently. Bringing back home economics to the school curriculum was mentioned several times throughout the two-day conference, because it matters that students graduate from school with basic cooking skills — something many do not have when they get out of the public school system now. Even White House advisor Sam Kass mentioned that the administration is working on how to reinvent home economics.

The results of a recent study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research backs up their argument. Researchers found that people who cook at home consume fewer calories, carbohydrates, sugar and fat than those who cook less.

Preparing your own meals, it turns out, really does lead to a healthier diet.

Here are some of the specifics from the report:

  • Those who cooked dinner once or less a week in this group consumed, on an average day, 2,301 total calories, 84 grams of fat and 135 grams of sugar.
  • Those who cooked dinner six to seven times a week consumed 2,164 calories, 81 grams of fat and 119 grams of sugar on an average day.
  • Home cooks often rely less frequently on frozen foods and are less likely to choose fast foods on the occasions when they eat out.
  • Blacks are more likely to live in households where cooking occurs less frequently.
  • Individuals who work more than 35 hours a week outside the home also cook less often.
“The evidence shows people who cook at home eat a more healthy diet," said one of the study's lead authors, Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. "Moving forward, it's important to educate the public about the benefits of cooking at home, identify strategies that encourage and enable more cooking at home, and help everyone, regardless of how much they cook, make healthier choices when eating out."

The results of the study aren’t surprising, but they are important in convincing the government, the schools and the public that cooking at home is important to health.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Want to eat fewer calories? Cook at home
Home cooking advocates have been trying to convince us for years that it’s healthier to cook your own meals. Now science backs them up.