Compared to Pre-prepared Meals, Fully and Partly Home-Cooked Meals in Diverse Families with Young Children Are More Likely to Include Nutritious Ingredients

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Background: Interest in initiatives that promote home cooking has been increasing, but no studies have examined whether home cooking is associated with dietary quality using longitudinal data on meals served in a diverse sample of families. Objective: The present study examined data on multiple meals per family in diverse households to determine whether home-cooked meals are more likely to contain nutritious ingredients than pre-prepared meals. Design: Data for the study came from the National Institutes of Health–funded Family Matters Study. As part of this study, between 2015 and 2016, 150 families provided ecological momentary assessment data on 3,935 meals over an 8-day observation window. Participants/setting: In this study, investigators followed 150 families with children aged 5 to 7 years old from six racial/ethnic groups (n=25 each non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, Native American, Hmong, and Somali families). Recruitment occurred through primary care clinics serving low-income populations in Minnesota. Main outcome measures: The main outcomes were participants’ self-reports of whether they served fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at a meal, and reports were made within hours of the meal. Statistical analyses performed: Within-group estimator methods were used to estimate the associations between meal preparation and types of food served. These models held constant time-invariant characteristics of families and adjusted for whether the meal was breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack and whether it was a weekend meal. Results: For all racial/ethnic and poverty status groups, meals that were fully or partly home-cooked were more likely to contain fruits and vegetables than pre-prepared meals (P<0.001). Meals that were partly home-cooked were the most likely to contain whole grains (P<0.001). Restaurant meals were more likely to contain vegetables than pre-prepared meals (P<0.001) but were equally likely to contain fruits and/or whole grains as pre-prepared meals. Conclusions: Interventions or initiatives that encourage fully or partly home-cooked meals may help families incorporate nutritious foods into their diets. In addition, evaluations of potential strategies to increase the likelihood of supplementing pre-prepared and restaurant meals with nutritious meal ingredients warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-830
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019



  • Fruits/vegetables
  • Home cooking
  • Poverty
  • Racial/ethnic differences
  • Whole grains

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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