In news that should surprise no-one, a study has found a correlation between preparing recipes from cooking shows and putting on weight. NPR reports that a researchers at the University of Vermont and Cornell surveyed 500 women in their twenties and thirties. They found that women who watched cooking shows but didn’t actually cook much, weighed on average 153 pounds. Whereas women who watched cooking shows and prepared a lot of their own meals weighed 164 pounds.

Photo: Facebook/ Giada De Laurentiis

Photo: Facebook/ Giada De Laurentiis

Common wisdom is that cooking for yourself is healthier than eating out at restaurants, because restaurants tend to use a lot of fat, salt, and sugar in their food. But homecooking is only as beneficial as you make it; butter will have the same effect on your body whether you eat it inside or outside your home.

Most cooking shows don’t tend to focus on light, healthy recipes, and why would they? Cooking shows are a form of entertainment, and they’re subject to the same pressures as other television programs. They seek viewers, and viewers want to see comfort food and indulgent desserts because those things are fun to look at (and eat). Of course, it would be nice of them to promote low-fat recipes, and sometimes they do. But whether on-screen or in a commercial kitchen, chefs are going to cook the most delectable meals they can, because they know that’s what we like.

Photo: The Food Network

Photo: The Food Network

If you want to be inspired to make healthy food (or vegetarian food, or gluten-free food), then seek out cooking shows and recipe books that are geared towards your needs. But bear in mind that the very act of watching a cooking show could cause you eat more.

A 2012 study from Hobart and William Smith Colleges measured the snacking habits of cooking show viewers and nature show viewers. All the viewers were given the same snacks: chocolate covered candies, cheese curls, and carrots. Although both groups consumed roughly the same amount of calories overall, the cooking show viewers ate more chocolate candy than the nature show viewers.

Photo: The Cooking Channel

Photo: The Cooking Channel

The idea that looking at food and thinking about food might then cause you to eat food isn’t rocket science. But let’s not confuse correlation and causation. Cooking shows don’t make you fat, eating fattening food does. A dieter might remove temptations like chocolate and junk food from the house, but they might want to consider turning the TV off as well.

[via NPR]