According to the CDC, about half of the American population has been touched by one or more of the following health conditions: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity (Ward BW et al, 2014). These diseases have a strong connection to diet. Researchers note that efforts to improve the US diet should focus on promoting the preparation of healthy foods at home while paying attention to limits on time available for cooking (Smith LP et al, 2013). Evidence-based resources that support consumers in the consumption of healthy foods at home are lacking. Efforts should be made to strengthen connection between healthcare practitioners and consumers to encourage engagement and compliance in the adoption of specified nutrition prescriptions.
Knowledge without tools and skills is like giving someone a box of nails without a hammer and telling them to build a house. Most people know they should be eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Giving them a list of foods or solely providing counseling on macronutrient balance alone is not enough to promote behavior change. Patients don’t eat paper and patients don’t eat carbs, proteins, and fats. They eat food – so having a conversation around food selection and preparation can be a turning point in achieving and maintaining healthy eating habits.
Evidence about the benefits of healthy eating has long been available, so why aren’t more people able to change their eating behaviors? It’s clear that one of the biggest barriers to healthier eating is the lack of cooking skills and the confidence needed to apply them. These barriers, coupled with time constraints along with the availability and relatively low cost of prepared foods can make cooking meals stressful and a low priority.
The general lack of cooking skills in today’s adult population is attributed to several factors. Many parents do not cook. As a result, children are not given the opportunity to observe and acquire those skills. The lack of culinary literacy then carries to the next generation. Additionally, the removal of culinary programming in schools, such as home economics, has had an impact as well. This transition away from cooking skill development has been identified in research as “deskilling” (Nelson et al, 2013). Also, our population is increasingly engaging in time-saving behavior. If prepared foods are readily available, convenient, and low-cost, making the choice to invest time in preparing our own meals may be more difficult.
The process of improving both cooking knowledge and skills can significantly increase healthful food intake (Bernardo, 2018). According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, individuals who consumed home-cooked meals versus take-out or prepared meals not only had better quality diets associated with positive health outcomes, but they saved money too. In another study (Garcia et al., 2016), researchers concluded that cooking skill classes may have a positive impact on improving cooking confidence as well as vegetable and fruit consumption.
While chefs and other culinary professionals can instruct individuals in basic cooking skills and methods, healthcare professionals and nutrition educators should be the influential leaders providing resources for food selection, meal planning and food preparation.
- Participants will be able to demonstrate the importance of incorporating culinary instruction into patient care.
- Participants will be able to discuss barriers that impact compliance and adoption of nutrition-related health behaviors.
- Participants will be able to the impact culinary nutrition programs can have on behavior mediators such as stress, knowledge, confidence, and goal setting.
- Participants will be able to discuss logistics of creating and facilitating nutrition education interventions that include cooking demonstrations.
- Participants will be able to replicate a live cooking demonstration.