Effect of Cooking Classes on Healthy Eating Behavior Among College Students

      Background (Background, Rationale, Prior Research, and/or Theory): Many college students do not understand how to prepare healthy meals accounting for food safety, which can prompt students to consume convenient, often unhealthy foods.
      Objective: To determine if cooking classes tailored to college students would improve knowledge and behavior to eat healthfully and practice food safety.
      Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention: A one-group, pre- and post-test model was used. Three cooking-classes were developed with parameters of limited cooking skills, limited access to kitchen equipment, and shelf-stable ingredients that are readily available on campuses (i.e. convenience stores and salad bars). Participants (n = 38) were recruited using tabling, posters, email, and social media.
      Outcome Measures and Analysis: Pre- and post- surveys assessed nutrition knowledge, frequency of healthy eating, cooking confidence, cooking ability, cooking frequency, and food safety knowledge. Participants were also queried on their perception of the cooking classes and their dietary behaviors post-intervention.
      Results: Scores for nutrition knowledge (P = .000), cooking confidence (P = .026), ability to put together ready-made ingredients to make a complete meal (P = .016), and preparing dishes from basic ingredients (P = .006) increased. There were no changes in ability to cook convenience foods, cooking frequency, food safety knowledge, nor frequency of healthy food consumption. However, 83% of participants perceived that they were consuming healthier diets because of the cooking classes.
      Conclusions and Implications: Cooking classes tailored to college students with limited access to cooking facilities, equipment, and ingredients that can be purchased on campus were effective in improving nutrition knowledge, cooking confidence, the ability to put together ready-made ingredients to make a complete meal, and the ability to prepare dishes from basic ingredients. Despite participants' reports that their diets were healthier after the cooking classes; there was no significant change in the frequency of choosing healthier foods detected via survey assessments. Cooking classes tailored to the college student population can be used to educate about nutrition and food safety and improve confidence and cooking ability.
      Funding: USDA.

      Supplementary Data

      The following is the supplementary data to this article: