Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Teaching Basic Cooking Skills: Evaluation of the North Carolina Extension Cook Smart, Eat Smart Program

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Teaching Basic Cooking Skills: Evaluation of the North Carolina Extension Cook Smart, Eat Smart Program

Article excerpt

Sixty-nine percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese (Flegal, Carroll, Kit, & Ogden, 2012). Obesity is linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and other chronic conditions, as well as high healthcare costs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).

Changes in our environment and lifestyles, including our food consumption patterns, likely have contributed to higher rates of overweight and obesity. Portion sizes of foods eaten away from the home (FAFH), ready-to-eat processed foods, and convenience foods have increased (Binkley, 2008; Young & Nestle, 2002). This has led to greater energy consumption and increased chances for weight gain (Binkley, 2008; Bowman & Vinyard, 2004; Pereira et al., 2005; Taveras et al., 2005). Consumption of FAFH is also correlated with higher body fatness (Bowman & Vinyard, 2004; Gillis & Bar-Or, 2003).

FAFH tend to have a negative impact on diet quality and are linked with greater consumption of saturated and trans fats. Consequently, FAFH are also linked to the reduced consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fiber (Bowman & Vinyard, 2004; Paeratakul, Ferdinand, Champagne, Ryan, & Bray, 2003; Taveras et al., 2005; U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2010).

People rely more heavily on convenient, quick food sources for meals, eating more FAFH and cooking fewer meals at home. Americans spent approximately 41% of their food budget on FAFH (U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2012), with one in four eating a fast-food meal daily (Bowman & Vinyard, 2004). Only half of Americans cook daily at home (Smith, Ng, & Popkin, 2013). This practice of eating convenience meals or eating out regularly may be due in part to inadequate cooking knowledge and skills (van der Horst, Brunner, & Siegrist, 2011), meaning a decreased ability to prepare nutritious meals at home (Short, 2003).

In light of these trends, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans cook and eat more meals at home (U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). When cooking at home, people are more likely to follow dietary recommendations, potentially improving their overall diet (Michaud, Griffin, & Condrasky, 2007). Home-prepared meals allow for more control over the amounts and types of ingredients. This results in more nutrients, healthier food choices, and lower calorie intake (Brown & Hermann, 2005 ; Gillman et al., 2000).

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines present a call to action that urges organizations to empower individuals and families with improved nutrition literacy and cooking skills, heightening their enjoyment of preparing and consuming healthy foods (U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). Lack of cooking skills, food preparation knowledge, confidence in meal preparation, and time are barriers to eating healthy at home. (Chavez-Martinez et al., 2010; Michaud et al., 2007; Soliah, Walter, & Jones, 2012). These barriers can be addressed through outreach programs that combine nutrition education with hands-on practice of cooking skills (Burney & Haughton, 2002; Levy & Auld, 2004). Although somewhat beneficial for larger groups, cooking demonstrations are less effective than hands-on cooking classes (Levy & Auld, 2004). Levy and Auld (2004) found that college students who participated in cooking classes had greater gains in attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors related to cooking than those attending demonstrations.

Hands-on cooking interventions can improve cooking skills, confidence, and knowledge among a variety of groups (Archuleta, VanLeeuwen, Halderson, Wells, & Bock, 2012a; Beets, Swanger, Wilcox, & Bradley, 2007; Dixon, Condrasky, Sharp, & Corr, 2013; Foley, Spurr, Leony, dejong, & Fichera, 2011; Keller, Gibbs, Wong, Vanderkooy, & Hedley, 2004; Meehan, Yeh, & Spark, 2008; Warmin, Sharp, & Condrasky, 2012). …

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