Home-cooking Can Lower Your Risk for Diabetes

by Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer

Get your chef's cap on! Do you eat out a lot? Are most of your meals purchased on the go? When you do eat at home, is the meal prepared and delivered from a restaurant? If you are concerned about your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, you might want to re-think your meal sources and start cooking more at home.

The authors of a new study found that individuals who ate 11-14 meals a week that were prepared at home (about two meals a day), faced a lowered risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to subjects who ate six or fewer meals prepared at home weekly. The research presented at the annual American Heart Association conference also found that in an eight year follow-up, those who ate more meals that were prepared and cooked at home also had lower weight gains and risk for obesity, which may actually explain the lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers also noticed other differences in the diets of those who cook more at home versus those who eat out. Those individuals who ate more at home drank fewer sweetened beverages. That too may offer some insight into the lower risk of Type 2 diabetes that was found in the study.

The data used in this study came from 58,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 41,000 men in the Health Professional Follow-up Study. Those two studies were observational and checked in on subjects every two years for 26 years.

The trend for eating out and eating commercially prepared meals has gained in popularity over the last 50 years.

Other studies have suggested that eating out more is generally associated with a poorer diet. Increasing rates of diabetes have tracked with the decades of “eating out more.” A study in 2012 that looked at children and teens suggested that generally when kids and teens eat out more, the food choices are less nutritious, regardless of the restaurant chosen.

Since most of us value convenience over everything else, the authors of the study suggest that the quality of commercially prepared foods has to be improved. Most of us are simply not able to or not going to cook at home daily, or prepare meals ahead of time and transport them with us to work every single day. We should try to eat many more meals prepared at home, especially if we are concerned about a risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

If you are inspired to eat more home-cooked or home-prepared meals, then use the following tips to make it convenient and affordable:

  • Keep it simple. A fresh salad with several different vegetables, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, and a serving of protein (pre-cooked chicken, fish, or beans) takes less than seven minutes to prepare.

  • Buy and use ingredients like walnuts and flaxseed (great on yogurt, in smoothies and on cereal) which studies suggest may help to lower your risk of diabetes.

  • A crock pot or slow cooker allows you to literally throw in fresh vegetables and meat, fish, or beans, some seasonings and slow cook all day.

  • When you shop, buy meats and fish already cut into four to six ounce portions. Season and flash freeze or cook and refrigerate, and this will save time when preparing meals during the work week.

  • Always cook more and take leftovers to work the next day.

  • Roast several pounds of different vegetables in the oven and then separate into containers for use throughout the week.

  • Include omelets with vegetables as a dinner option, since they cook up quickly and offer quality protein.

  • Make a large enough salad so you can take servings to work. Add edamame beans, tuna, grilled shrimp or nuts and seeds to bump up the protein and healthy fat.

  • Make several yogurt parfaits at home by layering Greek yogurt, high fiber cereal, nuts, seeds and berries in mason jars or a wide, small thermos for work.

  • Cook in large batches and then flash freeze whole grain side dishes, soups and bean chili.

  • Bake small potatoes and then pair them up with a protein and sautéed veggies for dinner or lunch the next day.

  • Stir fry meals with vegetables and chicken or fish cook up super-fast in a wok.

Many supermarkets and restaurants now offer cooking classes so customers can take advantage of fresh ingredients, learning how to expand their home-cooked menu options. Consider making that commitment!!


MedPage Today

Amy Hendel, P.A.
Meet Our Writer
Amy Hendel, P.A.

Known as "The HealthGal", Amy Hendel P.A. is a medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, find her on Twitter @Healthgal1103 and on Facebook @TheHealthGal. Check “Daily Health News” at healthgal.com. Her personal mantra? “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”