About The Buzz: Home-Cooked Meals Are Better for You Than Takeout?

TheBUZZ Home-cooked meals are better for you than takeout?

There are significant disparities in the nutritional quality of foods prepared at home and foods prepared away from home.


Eating out, whether at a restaurant, fast-food establishment, or takeout/delivery to be eaten at home, is becoming more and more routine for American families. In fact, 32% of today’s caloric intake is from foods prepared away from home, compared to 18% thirty years ago. Poor diet and lack of physical activity are contributing factors to the overweight and obesity epidemic in the United States. In 2008, the medical care costs of obesity in the United States totaled about $147 billion.¹ These high costs are why many individuals and organizations place high priority on improving Americans’ diets. One way to do this may be to prepare more meals at home.


The Economic Research Service, an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), analyzed data from two national food consumption surveys: The 1977-78 NFCS (Nationwide Food Consumption Survey) and the 2006-2008 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). Researchers were looking for changes in consumption and nutritional quality of foods prepared away from home (FAFH) and foods prepared at home (FAH) over that period of time. The nutritional quality of FAH has increased, most likely due to increased health awareness. Compared to 30 years ago, FAH are lower in fat and richer in calcium. However, FAFH are higher in saturated fats, sodium, cholesterol and lower in fiber than FAH. Fast food restaurants were the highest FAFH in saturated fats and the lowest in dietary fiber content.²


Dining out, ordering delivery, and grabbing takeout are not necessarily “bad” things. Here are a few ways to have health and convenience at the same time …

  1. Half-n-Half. Who doesn’t love to dine out? When your food arrives, ask for a to-go box. Save half of your entrée for another meal later that day or the next. Eating Out Guide
  2. Skip Happy Hour. While a drink after work may help to decompress, those empty calories will soon add up. Try engaging in an exercise routine instead. The Role of Diet & Exercise
  3. On-the-Go. Keep pre-sliced fruits and vegetables in the fridge. They are perfect on-the-go snacks and a great addition to takeout foods when those meals are lacking fruits and veggies.
  4. Lunch Break. It’s easy to fall into the routine of ordering takeout at work. Try bringing a lunch with you. You’ll save money and get more nutrition for your buck.
  5. Frozen, Canned & Pre-Cut. Time constraints may discourage cooking at home, but with easy-to-prepare frozen, canned, or pre-cut veggies available, nutritious at-home meals are simple to make. Check out our quick fruit & veggie recipes for ways to prepare healthy and balanced meals in a flash!

See our complete weight management guide for more information and remember to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies!


¹ Finkelstein, E.A., J.G. Trogdon, J.W. Cohen, et al. “Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer- and service-specific estimates.” Health Affairs 2009; 28(5): w822-w831

² Lin, Biing-Hwan and Joanne Guthrie. “Nutritional Quality of Food Prepared at Home and Away From Home,” 1977-2008, EIB-105, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December 2012.

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