We’d have thought that the biggest danger of binging on Chopped, Iron Chef America, and the Rachael Ray Show would be that it encourages you to start using obnoxious words like “mouthfeel” or pronouncing spaghetti like Giada (spah-GHIT-e). But as it turns out, these shows can also encourage you to pack on a surprising amount of weight—10 pounds! (Your Favorite Tearjerkers may also be to blame.)
That’s the word from researchers from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, who found that people who watch food television and frequently cook from scratch weigh roughly 10 more pounds than home chefs who find their recipes online (like, ahem, on Shape.com), in magazines, or from friends and family. Finding foodie inspiration on social media was also linked to higher BMIs.
But you don’t have to delete Pinterest just yet (thank goodness). Watching cooking shows and liking your friends’ brunch pics doesn’t seem to be the problem, the study authors say. It’s trying to replicate what you see on the screen that puts your waistline in danger. That’s because the shows and snapshots may encourage you to make certain unhealthy blunders in the kitchen. (FYI: these Biggest Cooking Calorie Bombs could be causing weight gain.)
For one, the dishes featured on these forums tend to be pretty indulgent. (Pulled pork mac and cheese, anyone?) And in an attempt to make the finished dish look pretty, TV hosts and bloggers often serve up pretty sizeable portions, a mistake we might mimic when we replicate the meal. So while we’re patting ourselves on the back for cooking at home (we’re so healthy!), if the recipe comes from primetime chefs, we’re actually setting ourselves up to chow down on a pretty high-cal, low-nutrition dish. (Check out these Genius Meal Planning Ideas for a Healthy Week for more diet-friendly ideas.)
The solution? Go ahead and watch to your heart’s desire. But when you want to try your hand at an as-seen-on-TV recipe, save it for your cheat day, look for lightened-up versions online or sneak in healthy ingredients, and be mindful of portion size. Sure, the Barefoot Contessa didn’t use whole-wheat fusilli in her Pasta, Pesto, and Peas recipe—but she doesn’t need to clock in a p.m. run after a full day of work, either.
By Mirel Ketchiff