Those who prepared 5-7 meals at home per week were 15 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Snow Peas. Photo © Antonis Achilleos
Credit: © Antonis Achilleos

We all know the feeling: after a long day, you just can't fathom preparing a meal. But a new study out of Harvard University might make you think twice before eating out or ordering delivery. In a report published in the online PLOS Medicine journal this week, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveal that cooking more meals at home can significantly lower your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

In an analysis of two studies of more 58,000 female and 41,000 male health professionals, researchers examined participants' diets and how often they ate a lunch or dinner that was prepared at home. Over the course of the study, they found that those who prepared 5-7 meals at home per week were 15 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who only claimed to eat 1-2 home-cooked meals in an average 7-day span.

It's no secret that eating out at restaurants can often mean consuming a bomb of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar—all of which can hide in even the most unsuspecting of dishes and ingredients. However, Harvard's study points out that these meals can also contribute to your risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes.

"Our findings suggest that people who eat MPAH (meals prepared at home) more frequently have a lower long-term risk of developing T2D (type 2 diabetes), and that this association is partially explained by less weight gain over time," the researchers write. They note that a possible reason for this lowered risk is fewer calories consumed overall, which means less weight gain—a prominent factor when it comes to the risk of diabetes.

"There has been a trend towards increased dining out in many countries," the report says. "Consuming food prepared out of the home has been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, and diabetes risk." And with more and more studies emerging that reaffirm this message, this trend towards cooking more and eating out less is sure to continue.

Wondering what to cook? Start with our collection of healthy, fast weeknight dinners.