The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 2016 Oct 2613(1) 111
Interventions to increase cooking skills (CS) and food skills (FS) as a route to improving overall diet are popular within public health. This study tested a comprehensive model of diet quality by assessing the influence of socio-demographic, knowledge- and psychological-related variables alongside perceived CS and FS abilities. The correspondence of two measures of diet quality further validated the Eating Choices Index (ECI) for use in quantitative research.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted in a quota-controlled nationally representative sample of 1049 adults aged 20-60 years drawn from the Island of Ireland. Surveys were administered in participants’ homes via computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) assessing a range of socio-demographic, knowledge- and psychological-related variables alongside perceived CS and FS abilities. Regression models were used to model factors influencing diet quality. Correspondence between 2 measures of diet quality was assessed using chi-square and Pearson correlations.
ECI score was significantly negatively correlated with DINE Fat intake (r = -0.24, p < 0.001), and ECI score was significantly positively correlated with DINE Fibre intake (r = 0.38, p < 0.001), demonstrating a high agreement. Findings indicated that males, younger respondents and those with no/few educational qualifications scored significantly lower on both CS and FS abilities. The relative influence of socio-demographic, knowledge, psychological variables and CS and FS abilities on dietary outcomes varied, with regression models explaining 10-20 % of diet quality variance. CS ability exerted the strongest relationship with saturated fat intake (β = -0.296, p < 0.001) and was a significant predictor of fibre intake (β = -0.113, p < 0.05), although not for healthy food choices (ECI) (β = 0.04, p > 0.05).
Greater CS and FS abilities may not lead directly to healthier dietary choices given the myriad of other factors implicated; however, CS appear to have differential influences on aspects of the diet, most notably in relation to lowering saturated fat intake. Findings suggest that CS and FS should not be singular targets of interventions designed to improve diet; but targeting specific sub-groups of the population e.g. males, younger adults, those with limited education might be more fruitful. A greater understanding of the interaction of factors influencing cooking and food practices within the home is needed.