Frontiers in Nutrition
School of Science / Institute for Nutrition Research / School of Medical and Health Sciences / Exercise Medicine Research Institute / School of Education
Obesity and mental health disorders are rising simultaneously with shifting dietary behavior away from home cooking, toward typically nutrition-poor and energy-dense convenience meals. Food literacy strongly influences nutrition choices. Community-based cooking interventions target barriers to healthy eating and facilitate development of food literacy skills, thereby potentially increasing preparation of home-cooked meals and positively influencing health. This study of 657 healthy Australian adults explored the efficacy of a 7-week cooking program in improving cooking confidence, whether this transferred to behavior surrounding food, and/or affected mental health. Significant post-program improvements in cooking confidence and satisfaction (all p < 0.001, (Formula presented.) 1.12 large), ability to change eating habits (p < 0.001) and overcome lifestyle barriers (p = 0.005) were observed for the intervention group but not control. Participation also improved mental and general health (all p < 0.05, (Formula presented.) 0.02 small). No changes were observed for acquisition and consumption of food, or nutrition knowledge in either group. This 7-week cooking program built cooking confidence and improved general and mental health but did not change dietary behavior. To further improve nutrition related behaviors associated with better mental health, more effort is needed to recruit those with below-average nutrition knowledge and interest in cooking.
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Exercise, nutrition, lifestyle and other interventions for optimal health across the lifespan