Look, we all love to settle onto the couch and dive headfirst into a MasterChef or Chopped marathon here and there. (Oh my god—what are they going to do with those lamb kidneys and Inca gold figs?!) But most of us are a little too lazy to actually put on an apron and furiously small-dice Vidalia onions to replicate the pornographically delicious dishes that we see on our screens. Watching Paula Deen make Twinkie Pie is strangely gratifying, sure, but whipping one up yourself is a whole different story.
But to those who do take to the stove to make like Giada, it's with a heavy heart that we tell you this: Cooking shows are making you fat.
Scientists at Cornell University—in fact, some of the very same scientists who warned that letting your children chew on chicken bones might be turning them into little Lizzie Bordens—have discovered a correlation between watching cooking shows and an elevated body mass index (BMI).
In a study published this month in the journal Appetite, researchers analyzed surveys from 500 women who were aged 27 on average. When they focused on people who cook from scratch, they found a significant difference between those who watch cooking shows and those who don't.
That is to say, if you make a tray of baked ziti according to your nonna's recipe, you probably weigh a little less than the person who let a TV host tell them how to make it. Or maybe not just a little: The study found that people who cook frequently and watch cooking shows weight 11 pounds more on average than those who don't.
"Watching chefs prepare indulgent dishes on TV or watching a famous host enjoy over-the-top foods with other people all over the country might suggest a social norm for preparing these types of foods," the authors wrote in the study. Previous studies have also affirmed that dishes created by celebrity chefs are more caloric and less healthy than those purchased at supermarkets.
Then again, is this much of a surprise? The reason that restaurant food tends to taste better than even your nonna's most famous dish is because chefs often use more butter, more cream, more salt, and more sugar than the typical home cook. The focus is on flavor, not feeding a family.
Although not included in the study, the same could likely be said of other food-porn platforms such as Pinterest. There is a joy in sashaying through page after page of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cakes and Fried Macaroni and Cheese Bites, but these recipes would take a serious toll on your svelteness if you were to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
That may seem obvious to some, but the proactive among us—who are probably better cooks, for the record—might not be realizing that these recipes come without calorie counts for a reason.
Remember when the Cheesecake Factory had to start including all of its nutritional facts on its menus, and everyone totally flipped out? It's because hordes of people who stopped by the ol' CF and opted for the Caesar Salad with Chicken ("Oh, you know, for a light lunch") suddenly realized that their bowl of lettuce and pre-shredded Parmesan somehow clocked in at over 1500 calories. How about just nibbling on a "Morning Quesadilla"? They should have named it the "Entire Day's Caloric Intake Quesadilla," because it contains more than 2,000 calories. Surprising? Sure. This stuff isn't necessarily intuitive.
But that isn't to say that calories are the enemy. Hell, if you want to make and eat a whole batch of Apricot and Salami Scones and then wash them down with béchamel milkshakes (or baklava milkshakes, for that matter), you should just fly your YOLO flag high. Really, who are we to judge cooking shows?
Just remember that the ten pounds added by the camera, per the old adage, can often end up on your side of the screen.