Skip The Pizza, Learn To Eat Healthier With Cooking Classes

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Those dissatisfied with their diets of unhealthy food would do well to take a few cooking classes and learn to make their meals at home, suggests a new study from the University of Glasgow.

More than just a fun activity for couples or fiercely independent singletons, these cooking classes have been proven to directly affect the lives of those who partake. A year after they took part in government-funded cooking classes, a group of parents said they were eating more fruits and vegetables at home and eating less pizza delivery and Chinese takeout.

Along with eating more vegetables (which have repeatedly been shown to be a great addition to a healthy diet), these parents also left these classes having learned a skill. When asked, the cooking class participants said they felt more confident about following a simple dinner recipe.

The University of Glasgow researchers said a few refresher courses could magnify these effects, getting the parents to eat even more fruits and veggies and have more confidence to try more complicated recipes.

This study has now been published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

“It is very encouraging that we have these positive results,” said Dr. Ada Garcia, the leader of the cooking class study, according to the BBC. “This suggests that the intervention has benefited participants’ eating habits and health not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term.”

Dr. Garcia and team sought out parents of preschool children who had previously enrolled in four- to eight-week-long cooking courses. These courses taught the parents more than basic recipes; they also learned some basic budgeting skills and nutritional facts.

Dr. Garcia´s team surveyed these parents immediately after they completed the courses and again a year later. Immediately following the courses, the parents reported having greater confidence in their cooking skills as well as a greater interest in trying out new foods and new recipes.

This confidence lasted the entire year in between the classes and the researchers follow-up questions.

Unfortunately, the researchers weren´t able to get in touch with half of the parents for final questioning. Of 100 parents who first took the classes, only 44 were available one year later.

Those 44 who did respond, however, reported eating less take-out foods, and more meals at home, consisting of more fruits and vegetables than before they had taken the classes. One year after taking the classes, these parents were eating these healthier foods daily, whereas before they only ate them a few times a week.

Former president of the Faculty of Public Health professor Alan Maryon-Davis told the BBC that more research should be done, including a controlled trial, in order to get government money to offer these classes freely to the public.

“Budgets are being cut and local authorities are not going to fund stuff unless it´s been shown to be effective. But this is pretty encouraging,” said Maryon-Davis. “It is particularly important to get these changes happening in young families.”

Recent research has also shown that children eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers when they eat home cooked meals with their family. According to the December study, eating at home even once or twice a week can boost a child´s fruits and veggies intake by 1.2 portions more than those children who don´t eat at home.

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