Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Recipes, the Internet and Nutritional Guidance

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Recipes, the Internet and Nutritional Guidance

Article excerpt

College students in an Introductory Nutrition course were instructed to find and report on three recipes sites for one of nine antioxidant vegetables. We surveyed the sites for number and kinds accessed, the forms of nutrition information, and the credentials of those involved.

Recipes, the Internet, and Nutritional Guidance

Historically, home economists and dietitians have promoted the concept of nutritious food and the development of reliable recipes (Guthrie, 1977; Hertzler, 1983; DuSablon, 1994). Endless searches by consumers (CDS-Cookbook Disorder Syndrome) do not necessarily result in recipes based on current nutrition guidelines, lifestyles, or the food ways of cultural groups (Hertzler et al., 1999). The Internet is a prime recipe source for college students, many of whom will soon become working singles or part of dual career families (Hertzler & Frary, 1995). Because of the explosive nature of the Internet's World Wide Web for nutrition and health information and the changing roles of family food preparers, an exploratory study was conducted to learn what kinds of food and nutrition information consumers are accessing from Web recipes. We investigated the number and kinds of recipe Web sites accessed by college students, the forms of nutrition information associated with these sites, and the credentials of those providing the information.


College students (39 males, 106 females) in an Introductory Nutrition course were surveyed because of their nutrition knowledge, cooking experience, Internet use, and projected entry into the work force. Because college students' links with nutrition resources have been positively and significantly associated with lower fat intakes but not with higher or lower vitamin or mineral intakes, we decided to select an area of the Dietary Guidelines (Johnson & Kennedy, 2000) rather than a total diet approach. Antioxidant vegetables (carotenoids, isothiosyanates, C, or E) were chosen as a recipe focus because of their importance in reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease risks (Hertzler & Frary, 1992; Van Durn & Pivonka, 2000). Students were directed to select one of nine commonly consumed dark green/orange or cruciferous vegetables (Table 1), search the Web in whatever fashion they chose using the same or different sites, and tsubmit the URLs for up to three recipes.

Recipe Sites

All reported URLs were keyed into a Web browser in December 2000, tabulated by category (.com, .edu, .gov, org, net), and analyzed for designated information by the authors. The number of times each site was listed was not counted because some students used the same site for all of their recipes, no site was used by more than 12 students, and embedded- and cross-linked sites complicated tracking. Approximately twelve sites listed on student reports were inactive at the time of the search or they prohibited entry without registration.

Food/Nutrition Information

Each recipe site was reviewed for the presence and form of written guidance, food guides, Nutrition Facts Label (NFL), nutrient analysis, or general educational features included with the recipe pages. The Homepage of each recipe site was used to search for credentials of those involved and for food and nutrition information.

Recipes selected by each student were classified using five categories - main dish (included protein source), vegetable/salad, soup, bread, dessert (cake, cookies) in order to show choices. The results illustrate what consumers may or may not be learning about nutrition and suggest educational pointers to guide professionals designing recipe pages.


Students commented on the ease of using search engines to locate recipes on the Web for one of the specified vegetables just by its name, or categorized by cuisine, main ingredient, season of the year, cooking method, quick preparation, and menu item. Table 1 shows that for this assignment, vegetables most often selected were broccoli, tomatoes, greens, and sweet potatoes, and in the form of a main dish. …

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