Food preparation by young adults is associated with better diet quality

Nicole I Larson, Cheryl L Perry, Mary Story, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2006, 106 (12): 2001-7

OBJECTIVE: To describe food-preparation behaviors, cooking skills, resources for preparing food, and associations with diet quality among young adults.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analyses were performed in a sample of young adults who responded to the second wave of a population-based longitudinal study. Measures pertaining to food preparation were self-reported and dietary intake was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire, both by a mailed survey.

SUBJECTS/SETTING: Males (n = 764) and females (n = 946) ages 18 to 23 years.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Cross-tabulations and chi2 tests were used to examine associations between food preparation, skills/resources for preparing foods, and characteristics of young adults. Mixed regression models were used to generate expected probabilities of meeting the Healthy People 2010 dietary objectives according to reported behaviors and skills/resources.

RESULTS: Food-preparation behaviors were not performed by the majority of young adults even weekly. Sex (male), race (African American), and living situation (campus housing) were significantly related to less frequent food preparation. Lower perceived adequacy of skills and resources for food preparation was related to reported race (African American or Hispanic) and student status (part-time or not in school). The most common barrier to food preparation was lack of time, reported by 36% of young adults. Young adults who reported frequent food preparation reported less frequent fast-food use and were more likely to meet dietary objectives for fat (P < 0.001), calcium (P < 0.001), fruit (P < 0.001), vegetable (P < 0.001), and whole-grain (P = 0.003) consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: To improve dietary intake, interventions among young adults should teach skills for preparing quick and healthful meals.

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