If you rely on cooking shows for recipe ideas and cooking tips, you might want to turn off the TV. New research suggests that people who cook food from these programs in their own kitchens weigh more than those who just watch the shows for entertainment. The study, published in the journal Appetite, found that women who were tuned into food shows and cooked from scratch weighed, on average, 10 more pounds than women who cooked from recipes found in magazines, newspapers, classes, or from friends and family.
Researchers from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab looked at the BMIs and viewing habits of 501 women between the ages of 20 and 35, and concluded that those who cooked from scratch based on cooking shows were actually making unhealthy meals. TV cooks aren’t usually making healthy meals, but “allow you to feel like it’s OK to prepare and indulge in either less nutritious foods or bigger portions,” said Brian Wansink, director of the lab and a co-author of the study. Even though they were preparing home-cooked meals—which are important to a healthy diet—they weren’t paying attention to nutritional value.
When the researchers dug further, they found that women who sourced recipes and information from social media, like perfectly filtered Instagram photos, also had higher BMIs. Researchers guessed this was because those streams of indulgent, beautiful meals make it seem like unhealthy eating patterns are normal.
The fix, they say, needs to come from the networks themselves. "If we had more food shows that used healthier recipes and showed how they can look good, taste good, be exciting and be social, which is what these shows illustrate, we could have an impact on public health," study leader Lizzy Pope said in a statement. "They can be part of the solution or continue contributing to a major problem."