Healthy, homemade meals will go head-to-head with their fast-food nemeses when the University of Newcastle Nutrition and Dietetics team hosts its inaugural Fast Food Challenge tomorrow.

To coincide with Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, the event will weigh into new survey results revealing three-quarters of young women still opt for regular take-away meals such as pizza, fast food chain dinners and fish and chips, over cooking a healthy meal at home.

The Newspoll survey, involved 200 young women aged 18-24 and found 68 per cent of respondents wanted to eat healthier and 42 per cent hoped to lose weight. However, their reliance on takeaway food due to its perceived convenience was stopping many from achieving their goals.

University of Newcastle Professor Clare Collins* said the Fast Food Challenge was a fun way to prove to young women that cooking at home was actually cheaper, healthier and faster than takeaway options, and it could even be ‘fancy without the fuss’.

“With young Australian women identified as those becoming obese at the fastest rate, it is time to face the challenge. Cooking fast food at home regularly could be the answer to changing unhealthy food habits, solving weight problems and improving how young women feel about themselves,” Professor Collins said.

“It is vital to change these unhealthy behaviours as young women who are overweight are at risk of developing serious health conditions, including issues with fertility.”

Watch Professor Collins interviewed about Healthy Weight Week and the Fast Food Challenge on NBN News, or listen to her ABC radio interview or read the event coverage in the Newcastle Herald.

The Fast Food Challenge will see a team of female nutrition and dietetics staff and students putting fast food to the test by cooking healthy versions of a burger and fries; fish and chips; and pizza. Cooking will begin once an order has been placed for the takeaway version and the food will be judged on the time it takes to get to the table, the cost, its nutritional value and the taste.

“Food cooked at home is typically more nutritious than most fast foods and cooking can be quicker than takeaway. The secret is to plan ahead,” Professor Collins said.

“You can pick and choose your ingredients and add healthy flavours from lean cuts of meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. By using fresh, healthy ingredients, you will benefit from important nutrients like protein, folate, iron and calcium, without overdoing the nasties like saturated fat, added sugar and salt.”

The Fast Food Challenge will be held in the Nutrition and Dietetics Food Science Laboratory at 12pm on Wednesday 23 January in the Hunter Building, Level E, HE02. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Need some tips? Cick here to read the Australia’s Healthy Weight Week’s top 25 tips for maintaining a healthy weight.

Also, check out the University’s Back to Basics Cooking and Healthy Lifestyle program for some great family meal ideas.

Curious to know the results of the Fast Food Challenge? Click here and all will be revealed!

The University of Newcastle achieved a ‘5’ rating of ‘well above world standard’ for nutrition and dietetics research in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).

*Professor Clare Collins is a Co-Director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition and a member of HMRI’s Cardiovascular Health program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.