Being able to cook with confidence leads to fewer fast food meals, more meals as a family, and more frequent preparation of meals with vegetables in adulthood, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour
Evidence suggests that developing cooking and food preparation skills is important for health and nutrition, yet the practice of home cooking is declining and now rarely taught in school.
The new study found that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition.
“The impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation,” said lead author Jennifer Utter, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
“The strength of this study is the large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years to explore the impact of perceived cooking skills on later nutritional well-being.”
Questions assessed the perceived adequacy of cooking skills, how often they prepared a meal that included vegetables, how often they ate meals as a family, and how often they ate at a fast food restaurant.
Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18 – 23, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate.
Perceived adequacy of cooking skills predicted multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood including greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food. If those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation.
“Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being,” said Dr Utter. “Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realised until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently.”
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