Exploring Human Potential

Happy Independence Day! Celebrating A Home Based Food Culture.

Posted on | July 4, 2012 | No Comments

Mike Magee

When it comes to childhood obesity, this July 4th, geography will make all the difference. That’s the conclusion of a University of North Carolina study of nearly 30,000 kids.(1)  But if you’re thinking “geography” as in “region of the country”, you’re on the wrong track.Geography here means where the food was prepared and where it was eaten. When I was a kid in the 1950’s, nearly 100% of the meals I consumed were prepared in my home. We would even walk home from school mid-day for lunch. But over the past half century, we’ve become a much more mobile, catch-as-catch-can society when it comes to food. Today about a third of all calories come from restaurants and other vendors.(2)

Sensing that fast food dining may be harmful for their children, parents on the go are increasingly buying prepared meals and carrying them to their homes. But are “home-consumed” meals a good substitute for home-prepared meals?

Apparently not!

Over the thirty years of this study, childhood intake of calories increased by 179 calories per day. More significantly, there was a 255 calorie increase from food sources prepared outside the home over the course of the study. Bottom line – children consume more food (even at home) when it is pre-prepared commercially.(1,3)The study noted where the food eaten was prepared and where it was consumed.This included take out, pre-packaged supermarket meals, restaurant meals, and packaged snacks. Fast food is increasingly devoured in the home. Store-bought/supermarket prepared meals – previously under the radar screen – beat all comers for meals on the run. (1,2,3)

Why do traveling meals carry more calories? Tasty foods (designed by commercial producers to attract craving-driven purchasing) are loaded with extra calories. Portion sizes are larger than what’s served at home. And when you eat on the go, it’s easier to lose track of calories.(3)

So here’s the cold, hard truth. Eating at home carries no significant nutritional benefit if the food is not prepared at home.

So this July 4th, as you’re celebrating our nation’s birth, here’s my message: Healthy kids need good nutrition. And good nutrition takes time – your time. Buy fresh. Buy local. Involve your kids in the purchase, preparation and presentation. Create a food culture at home.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee


1. Poti JM, Bopkin BM. Trends in energy intake among US children by eating location and food source, 1977 – 2006. children for foods eaten at home or away from home, by
J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:1156-1164.

2. Melnick M. Is commercially-prepared food responsible for childhood obesity? TIME.

3. Science Daily. Children Eating More, And More Frequently Outside The Home. July 25, 2011.


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