Study shows experience in meal preparation as a teenager is the best predictor of food skills in university students

June 6, 2019

London, ON – A new study, led by researchers at Brescia University College, has found evidence that experience in meal preparation as a teenager is the best predictor of food skills in university students.

Dr. Jamie Seabrook, Dr. June Matthews and Dr. Paula Dworatzek, all Brescia faculty members in the School of Food & Nutritional Sciences, conducted the study that is the largest to date in the literature on this subject, after adjusting for other important factors also known to be associated with food skills. These include food and nutrition education, student demographic characteristics and food-related behaviours while at university. In addition to the study’s key finding, it also concludes that students who had taken a formal food and nutrition course had higher food skills than those who had not taken such a course.

“Our goal for this study was to determine the impact of food and nutrition education on food skills,” explains Dr. Seabrook, Brescia Associate Professor and the first author of the study. He goes on to say, “Our key findings not only highlight the importance of foods and nutrition education, but also the magnitude and impact of learning cooking and food skills early in life to help with food proficiency and to increase well-being in young adults.”

The study invited students from Western University to complete an original online survey that assessed a self-reported foods and nutrition knowledge, skills, intentions and behaviours. The final sample consisted of 3,354 students, who have been living independently and outside of university residence.

The survey consisted of 67 items, seven of which explored food skills that are relevant for young adults. Students were then asked to rate their food skills on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating higher proficiency – for a maximum score of 700.

The results of the study were run across four different comprehensive models. After compiling multiple factors within these models, including age, gender, identifying the primary grocery shopper, creating grocery lists and lunch-packing, the results of the study concluded that preparation of meals as a teenager was the strongest predictor of food skills as a young adult. In addition, the study revealed that those who had purchased a higher frequency of pre-prepared meals had significantly lower food skills.

“The process involved in independent personal food production, such as planning, budgeting, shopping, preparing and cleaning, can be a daunting task for many university students,” outlines Dr. Seabrook. “Given the positive correlation between food skills and healthy eating behaviours, we believe that if students can acquire a food and nutrition education at home and ideally within their schools as well before living independently, this has the potential to increase their food proficiency – with the possibility to help combat our obesity epidemic and assist with the mental health of our students.”

Next steps following this study include assessing the efficacy of interactive cooking sessions in improving university students’ food skills.

Above: Brescia Associate Professor, Dr. Jamie Seabrook prepares a healthy meal with his daughters Morgan and Madison



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Brescia University College, Canada’s women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,500 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in the Schools of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Food & Nutritional Sciences, Humanities and Leadership & Social Change in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic University College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room, at .