Most people choose to cook at home because it is cheaper and healthier than eating out. For these reasons, eating food at home seems like a better option. But in some cases, homemade meals could be just as bad for your health as fast food.

To eat smarter, it is good to know who the ‘nutritional gatekeeper’ is in your home. This is the person that buys and makes most of the meals at home for the family. According to research, the gatekeeper is in control of over 72% of the households’ diets. The nutritional gatekeeper has the biggest influence on the nutrition that their household receives. In a traditional home, the mother would be the nutritional gatekeeper. In more recent findings, this role has shifted into shared responsibilities between couples to buy and make meals (1).

In the past, surveys have shown that mothers who cooked for their family felt that their partners and children were the ones choosing the kinds of foods she made based on what they liked and did not like to eat. To make sure the dish was popular among everybody, she would stick to making select recipes. Surprisingly, the rest of the household members thought differently about meal choices compared to the mothers. Other members of the household claimed they were willing to eat other meals.


Types of Cooks

A study by Dr. Brian Wansink found that there were a couple of different kinds of cooks in every household. The types of cooks are as followed (3):

The “competitive” cook (13%) – likely to want to impress guests rather than focusing on the healthiness of the meal

The “methodical” cook (18%) – prepares most meals with the use of recipes

The “innovative” cook (19%) – more open to trying new foods that include ingredients that have not been used before. Those that have a more ‘innovative’ style do not usually use recipes. This way of cooking makes way for healthier meals

The “giving” cook (22%) – passionate about cooking. These cooks enjoy making comfort foods

The “healthy” cook (20%) – likes to experiment with more nutritious ingredients such as fish and fresh vegetables


Nutritional gatekeepers with a ‘giving’ style of cooking believed that they made healthy meals when they actually served meals that were the least healthy to the members of their households (this includes heavier meals and desserts). On the other hand, cooks with an ‘innovative’ style aimed to make foods that were both fresh and delicious. The meals made by the innovative cook turned out balanced and nutritious as a result.

It is important to know how a nutritional gatekeeper’s food choices will affect others. To make healthier decisions, thinking through the simple choices of purchasing and preparing meals makes a big difference.



BUZZWORD: Nutritional gatekeeper. (2014). Alternative Medicine, (15), 15. Retrieved from (1)

Wansink, B. (2006). Nutritional Gatekeepers and the 72% Solution. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(9), 1324-1327. (2)

Parker-pope, T. (2009, March 16). Who’s Cooking? (For Health, It Matters). Retrieved from (3