NUTRITION
March 30, 2015

Gaining More Than Cooking Skills

Cooking show mavens who try to duplicate TV meals at home gain more weight.
Beth Fontenot, MS, RD, LDN

Cooking meals at home from scratch — where you control the salt and the sugar in your food — is a key ingredient of healthier eating. It's also the best way to get children eating a healthier diet, but if your inspiration comes from cooking shows you see on television, you may be in trouble.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab asked 500 women between the ages of 20 and 35 where they found new recipes, how often they cooked from scratch, and noted their height and weight.

It turns out some cooks are viewers and others are doers, according to researchers, and their results point up an interesting link between women’s weights and food TV.

Instead of contributing to the problem, food networks could be part of the solution.

Women who acquired recipes from cooking shows and also frequently cooked from scratch weighed, on average, 11 pounds more than women who watched food TV for entertainment but didn’t often cook. They also weighed more than women who obtained new recipes from print sources, on the Internet, from family and friends, or from cooking classes.

Women who cooked food at home on a regular basis but did not watch food TV weighed less than those who used recipes from cooking shows.

The reason for weight gain among food TV connoisseurs is not surprising. The recipes used on cooking shows incorporate high calorie, high fat ingredients such as cheese, sugar, cream, and butter, and the chefs make it seem like there’s nothing wrong with indulging your taste buds on their less-than-nutritious dishes or larger-than-normal portion sizes.

“Food TV should be a viewing experience only, not a cooking experience,” said Lizzy Pope, the study’s lead author, in a statement.

There is nothing wrong with watching all those cooking shows as long as you realize that the recipes tend to be pretty unhealthy. Don't let them influence your own eating too much.

Instead of contributing to the problem, food networks could be part of the solution, according to Pope. They could play an important role in battling obesity and related health costs by producing more programs that emphasize healthy recipes and teaching people that healthy food can look and taste good.

The study also found that women who found recipes on social media were heavier. Who hasn’t experienced a craving for highly caloric food after seeing pictures of perfectly styled foods posted by friends in your Facebook feed? They make it seem like everybody’s eating that way.

When you see those luscious and gooey foods on Facebook and other social media, it might be best not to even click on the links to the recipes, or if you do, look for ways to modify the recipes so they don’t sabotage the healthy diets of you and your family.

Take a dash of knowledge and mix it with a pinch of willpower, and it’s possible to avoid the temptations of the decadent dishes as seen on TV or the Internet.

The study was published in the journal Appetite.

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