This blog post looks at a research article which suggests that possessing cooking ‘skills’ is only one of a range of factors associated with whether a person is actually more likely to cook their meals at home. The article explored who is more likely to cook at home and why; and what impact home cooking may have on their health.
Mills and others published the article at the end of 2016 in the ‘Appetite’ journal. It used evidence from 38 studies from several countries including 5 from the UK. It found that other factors may be more important than skills to determine whether someone carries out ‘home cooking,’ (defined as preparing hot or cold meals, putting together ingredients, etc.). Some of these are factors that cannot be changed or that you won’t be surprised by. People who were more likely to home cook included:
- women or girls
- those with more time to plan meals and cook (and not working long hours)
- those with close personal relationships: living with a partner or dependents increased the likelihood of cooking, and adolescents that took part in family meals were more likely to help with food preparation
The studies from the USA showed that immigrants and Asian Americans were also more likely to cook at home – so the influence of your cultural and ethnic identity may be important.
What about the impact?
The article was unable to conclude that home cooking leads to a healthier diet as the evidence was not that strong. However it did find that individuals who home cook do seem to eat slightly better, at least in the short term.
It also found that cooking with others at home may have social benefits such as supporting and enhancing personal relationships.
So, what relevance does this have for those running cooking courses?
This type of research may be a reminder (if we need reminding) that there’s a lot more to encouraging people to cook than simply possessing skills (or even resources).
The issue about having enough time to plan and prepare meals supports the aims of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde ‘eat better, feel better’ cooking course which tries to address the barriers around lack of time through meal planning and using simple recipes. (see blog post 17)
The possible social benefits of cooking with others at home chimes well with what we have heard practitioners say about the benefits of running cooking courses for parents and children together (that is, if parents are able to continue this practice at home –see blog 2 about the challenges of parents continuing to cook with their children at home). We hear less about cooking courses that have participants attend in couples, but this might be worth exploring too.