Americans Fall Short in Healthy Eating and Cooking

September 21, 2010

It’s generally thought that if you are cooking for yourself at home, you will prepare more healthful meals.

It’s generally thought that if you are cooking for yourself at home, you will prepare more healthful meals. A study recently reported in the Journal of American Dietetic Association disproved this hypothesis and actually found little difference in the overall dietary quality of those who cooked for themselves or left the cooking to someone else. The Lempert Report sees a clear opportunity for consumers’ continued food preparation and nutrition education in supermarkets as well as products that outline healthy well balanced recipes. 
The study found that, in general, women (aged 26- 36) who helped prepare meals tended to consume more vegetables than women who avoided cooking completely, but the difference only amounted to less than one extra serving. Men (aged 26-36) who were responsible for meal preparation tended to eat more lean meat and meat alternatives than those who stayed out of the kitchen; but here again less than one serving. Although this latest study’s findings were much less significant than conventional wisdom had thought, the overall implications are strong, and this should not be our excuse to give up on the home cooking initiative. The Lempert Report agrees with the study’s authors that said, “Just being involved in meal preparation is not enough…you also have to make the right decisions and include healthy foods in the meal…Everyone needs to be aware of the ingredients that can make up a healthy meal.”
New research published in the Journal of Nutrition titled, "Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations," found that nearly the entire US population fails to eat a diet in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Americans are substituting energy-dense, nutrient-void foods for their nutrient rich counterparts. “Nearly everyone” failed to meet recommendations for dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Supermarkets and CPGs can help support healthy eating by directing consumers towards more healthful ingredients and promoting the consumption of vegetables; clearly these items are not scanning at the checkout, being cooked at home nor chosen when out to eat.  
The Dietary Guidelines researchers applied their findings to the US food supply, which they found has oversupplied solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, and undersupplied fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk over at least the past several decades. “The stark contrasts observed between the diets of Americans as well as the US food supply and current dietary guidance underscore the need for individual- and environmental-level interventions to facilitate healthier dietary intake patterns,” the authors concluded. “Without such interventions, the diets of most U.S. adults and children will continue to be markedly divergent from recommendations, a worrisome state in the context of the obesity epidemic and alarming rates of other diet-related chronic diseases.” 
Clearly, the momentum being built by the White House and the Let’s Move program is attracting the attention of Consumer Packaged Goods and food service operators, but it is the food retailers who have the unique opportunity to empower and educate the shoppers.
For more information visit the site for the 
Journal of the American Dietetic Association or the Journal of Nutrition.