Young people who cook at home eat better

Young people who cook at home eat better

By Anne HardingThu Dec 14, 11:30 AM ET

Young adults who frequently make their own meals have much healthier diets than their peers who never set foot in the kitchen, a new study shows.

"It’s really important to be preparing food at home," Nicole I. Larson
told Reuters Health. "Those who were preparing foods more often at home
had a much higher likelihood of reaching dietary guidelines."

However, relatively few young people regularly shop for, plan, or cook
meals for themselves, Larson, of the University of Minnesota, and her
colleagues found. Just 21 percent of young men and 36 percent of young
women bought fresh vegetables every week, for example, while 44 percent
of the men made a dinner with chicken, fish or vegetables at least once
a week.

Larson’s team surveyed 1,710 18- to 23-year-olds about how they shopped for and prepared food. Young adulthood, when many young people move away from home and fend for themselves for the first time, is a key period for building lifetime eating habits, the researchers note in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Females were more involved with food preparation, the researchers found, with 56 percent making a meal with chicken, fish or vegetables at least weekly and 45 percent making dinner for two or more people at least weekly. While 13 percent of males wrote a grocery list at least once a week, 23 percent of females did.

Study participants with the highest involvement in meal preparation were less likely to eat fast food and more likely to meet Healthy People 2010 dietary goals for intake of calcium, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fat, Larson and her colleagues found.

Nevertheless, relatively few met these goals; 31 percent of those with high involvement in meal preparation ate at least five servings of fruits or vegetables daily, compared to 3 percent of those with little involvement in food preparation. Eighteen percent met requirements for eating deep-yellow and green vegetables, while just 2 percent of those with the least involvement in food preparation did.

While most of the study participants felt their cooking skills were adequate, one-quarter said they did not have the money to buy and prepare their own food, and more than one-third said they did not have the time.

"Nutrition intake might be improved by participation in university and community-based courses that teach skills for healthful food preparation," Larson and her team write. They conclude: "Young adults might benefit most from courses that teach skills for preparing quick and economical meals as time constraints and cost were the main barriers to preparation."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, December 2006.


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