Men and young adults have a shortage of skills when it comes to cooking and planning meals, according to new research.
A first of its kind study on the island of Ireland, carried out by safefood, has looked at the overall food and cooking skills of the population and how these relate to diet.
The research, led by Queen’s University Belfast, in conjunction with a team from Ulster University, reveals men and young adults are the least able when it comes to planning meals and cooking from scratch.
It also found that even adults in Northern Ireland who are comfortable with basic cooking and food preparation techniques, are less confident when it comes to planning meals, cooking in batches or using up leftovers.
Keeping basic food cupboard ingredients and sharing cooking responsibilities were viewed as helpful steps to facilitate more cooking from scratch.
People are being encouraged to ‘have a go’ at basic cooking and food skills to build their kitchen confidence and help improve their health to address the problem.
Research lead Dr Moira Dean from Queen’s University Belfast said: “The aims of the research were to measure the food and cooking skills of adults on the island of Ireland, determine the healthiness of diets of the adults surveyed, understand the barriers to people cooking from scratch and identify solutions to help them overcome that.
“What was really evident is how people gained confidence from simply trying out a recipe and how we should be encouraging non-cooks to give it a go.”
“On its own, knowing about healthy eating is not enough to improve the quality of our diets and how healthy we are. Having basic food items like eggs, canned beans and tomatoes, pasta, and dried herbs and spices allows us to be prepared for being unprepared.”
She added: “With a few items like this in the cupboard, we can quickly put a meal on the table (e.g. beans on toast, tomatoes and pasta, omelette) when we don’t have time or fresh ingredients available.”
Safefood has launched a series of quick, user-friendly videos to help people with building confidence in quick techniques including roasting vegetables, prepping garlic, chillies and leeks, poaching an egg and roasting a chicken.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said: “We don’t need to be a domestic god or goddess to put a healthy and safe meal on the table. However, for most of us, food skills involve being able to plan meals ahead, make a shopping list, using leftovers and having some quick meal ideas in the cupboard.
“The key is to plan ahead and cook more of our meals from scratch, even with time pressures.”
Dr Foley-Nolan continued: “With this research reporting poor confidence in their own food and cooking skills, we are more inclined to eat ready-made or takeaway meals, which in general are more expensive and less nutritious than meals made from scratch.
“We’re not asking people to cook everything from scratch but to include some more fresh ingredients.”