'Back to basics' cooking having positive impact on diet

'Back to basics' cooking having positive impact on diet

New research has suggested that taking food 'back to basics' is helping to improve how people eat.

The approach, which has been championed by TV chef Jamie Oliver, can significantly increase the quantity of fruit and vegetables people eat, boosting nutrition and helping them have a more balanced diet.

Conducted by a team at the University of Leeds, the study focused on people who went to the celebrity chef's eight-week Ministry of Food course.

It found that people experienced significant improvements in their eating habits after the course, with reduced snacking and more cooking confidence, as well as increased fruit and veg, the researchers reported.

Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the University's School of Food Science and Nutrition and researcher Janet Cade said the positive changes were seen immediately after the course and increased further up to six months after it had ended.

She said: "This suggests that the Ministry of Food programme may encourage short-term changes in dietary behaviour which can be maintained and improve over longer periods of time."

Published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, the study surveyed almost 800 people who took part in these cookery courses in Leeds between 2010 and 2014.

Getting balanced meals is key for everyone to help promote better physical and mental health, but for older people it can be crucial to living a long and independent life.

Nutrition has been linked to a lower risk of a range of illnesses and conditions - including dementia and cancer - as well as reducing the danger of stroke, heart attacks and other traumatic events that can be linked to general health.

For older people, getting the right balance of fruit and vegetables ensures they get the right levels of vitamins and minerals to help them remain healthy. This can not only promote better cognitive abilities but also reduce the risk should they suffer a fall, by having a diet that supports good bone health.

Planning meals that contain all the nutritional properties that an individual needs can be challenging, which is why having a team of professionals can be such a fantastic resource to have.

Talking about how a change in cooking habits can influence health, Professor Cade said there has been a decline in cooking skills since the 1950s, with homemade meals often being replaced by more convenient foods.

Encouraging older people to take cooking classes or at least engage with what they are eating can help them feel involved with their day-to-day living, which can boost their mental wellbeing and confidence.

"Our study shows that if you help people improve their cooking skills using basic ingredients, and their confidence in these skills, then they might make healthier food choices," Professor Cade added.