"The home is a privileged environment that nurtures healthy eating and in which healthier food choices trigger and are triggered by more positive emotions," Ji Lu of Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Catherine Huet and Laurette Dube of McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management say in a statement.
"Over the course of evolution in a world of food scarcity, humans and animals alike have been biologically programmed to elicit more powerful food reward responses to high-caloric foods" than to less-fattening fare, the study notes," the researchers add.
Home is where many people feel most content and the positive emotions often associated with home-cooked meals may be part of the recipe for a healthy diet, the researchers suggest.
The study is based on data from 160 women who reported their emotional states before and after meals.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that people who are in a good mood at home tend to prepare healthier meals and feel more emotionally rewarded after eating. This cycle of positive reinforcement is more pronounced at home than elsewhere, the study says.
This pattern may help explain why people make better choices at home than when eating out, Dube says.