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Lack of Cooking Confidence May Be Linked to Obesity, Disordered Eating in Teens

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Poor cooking skills among teens is becoming a dangerous epidemic, according to researchers at Lancaster University.

In addition to the influence of a microwave-based, fast food culture, lack of confidence in the kitchen is also significantly contributing to the growing obesity problem and scattered or disordered eating habits among young people, the new study reports.

Researchers interviewed adolescents between the ages of 16 and 20 to explore their beliefs and attitudes about food, as well as how these factors can lead to weight problems.

"Cooking tended to be described as 'jar' based; microwaving a pizza was considered to be cooking, as was cheese on toast, which could indicate limited cooking skills," the researchers said.

Many young people also expressed a limited ability to navigate their way around the kitchen.

"I can't cook," one young woman said. "I just can't be bothered...I burn toast."

Another male participant also reported that McDonald's is considered a healthy option because the chain serves salads.

Regular meals aren't regular anymore

Findings also indicated that teens are, in general, no longer eating at regular meal times - instead they order take-out or heat food at home whenever is convenient for them.

One teen complained of the distance required to walk to the grocery store, while another said it's easiest to throw something in the microwave.

"The findings indicate that young people lack confidence in their preparation and cooking skills, not being 'trusted in the kitchen' to fend for themselves," the authors wrote.

Most of the participants in the study were living at home and attending school, suggesting the problem isn't directly related to leaving the nest and the fluctuating eating habits that often accompany first-year college students who live on campus.

The research is published in the Journal of Public Health.

Source: Lancaster University