Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions

Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions Among Adults: Outcomes and Implications for Future Programs

As food and nutrition professionals and public health educators, we recognize the importance of knowing our way around the kitchen to improve health.  We recognize that eating meals away from home increases calorie, fat and sodium intake and reduces fiber, vitamin and mineral consumption. ( 1 ) But how do we convey the need for cooking interventions to the populations that need them most or potential funders of such programs? Despite the popularity of cooking shows, food magazines, and social media sites devoted to food and cooking, what does the research say about their impact on patient compliance or healthful behavior?

A recent study published in the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior reviewed studies conducted from January 1980 to December, 2011. The review looked at how effective interventions were that included cooking and home food preparation. Outcome measures included nutritional intake, knowledge/skills, attitudes toward cooking, self-efficacy/confidence and health outcomes such as BMI, changes in lipids and PSA in one randomized cooking trial with prostate cancer survivors as subjects.

Of the 373 journal articles and 85 educational materials identified, there were 28 appropriate studies identified; 12 that had a control group, 6 as nonrandomized and 6 randomized.  In 5 studies, postintervention was provided, pre- and postintervention was done for 23 studies and 15 studies included information beyond postintervention. Both qualitative and quantitative outcomes pointed to a positive effect on main outcomes, but due to the lack of rigorous study designs, different study populations and non-validated evaluation tools used, stronger conclusions could not be drawn.

Some of the more successful studies showing positive impact included pre, post and beyond post intervention. Questionnaires including eating style, pre VS post nutrition education, cooking skills and changes in dietary intake and behavior were used in several studies.  Populations varied from U.S. university students, Aboriginal people, South Asian community members and Head Start parents.  Nineteen of the studies reviewed looked at the effect of cooking classes on dietary intake.  Although study designs were variable, 16 of the studies showed a positive impact on food consumption.

In one study of 212 Urban, African American women in a 20-week intervention group, those that attended a minimum of 5 classes reduced total calories and calories from fat at posttest and follow up. (2) In another study of women treated for breast cancer, 12 monthly cooking classes, use of newsletters and nutrition counseling calls resulted in increased intake of fruits and vegetables, average fiber intake and reduced fat consumption. (3) A study by McMurray, et. al. found that 12-13 monthly nutrition classes taught by registered dietitians resulted in reductions in total and LDL cholesterol in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. (4)

Bottom line:

While there is not a lot of high quality studies on cooking interventions the ones that are successful teach multiple classes. A minimum of 5 classes seems to be a successful format. Perhaps weekly or monthly classes over an extended period of time can be the most helpful. Adding newsletters and phone calls appears to be helpful.

Nutrition and health professionals can find recipes for cooking demos online at There is a category for recipes designed specifically for cooking demos Additionally more resources including books about cooking demos and tool sets are found at

Grants for school gardens, cooking classes and cafeterias can be found at Finally, is a catch all site you can search to find food and nutrition grants in your backyard.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD

If you really want to polish your skills consider one of our books, a salad theme, or our new upcoming webinar, 10 Successful Strategies for Cooking Demonstrations. Got a question? Ask us!


Ngyun, B. Powell, L.  The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes.  Public Health Nutrition, Volume 17, Issue 11 November 2014, pp. 2445-2452

Shankar, S., Klassen, A.C., Garrett-Mayer, E. et al. Evaluation of a nutrition education intervention for women residents of Washington, DC, public housing communities. Health Educ Res. 2006; 22: 425–437

Newman, V.A., Thomson, C.A., Rock, C.L…., and For the women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Study Group. Achieving substantial changes in eating behavior among women previously treated for breast cancer—an overview of the intervention. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005; 105: 382–391

McMurry, M.P., Hopkins, P.N., Gould, R. et al. Family-oriented nutrition intervention for a lipid clinic population. J Am Diet Assoc. 1991; 91: 57–65

2018 Cooking Demo Ideas

Do you have an audience who needs to eat more fruits, vegetables, and legumes? Perhaps they have picky tastes or they do not know how to cook and plan meals? Or maybe they love to cook and they are looking to you for inspiration and healthy eating ideas? Whatever the cause, a cooking demo is a great way to help people learn to eat healthfully. They can be used as part of a wellness program, for marketing a program, or in a classroom setting. You don’t even have to heat anything you can make salads, snacks, and desserts without cooking. Of course you can also go hog wild and cook a few dishes or meals.

Chances are you have a few favorite dishes and cooking techniques that others will want to learn. There is a reason why most parties end up in a kitchen! But if you want some great ideas you are in luck! Here are new ideas for 2018 for fabulous cooking demonstrations.

InstantPot – I have a friend who likes to work very hard and very late in her dental practice. She is a total foodie who loves to cook so she is not giving it up but she is doing it faster! She actually owns two InstantPots and is cooking all of her meals in them. On the day that I visited her kitchen she was slowly cooking a turkey breast in one and a soup in another one. It is all about hands free, fast cooking.

Salad – Develop your own delicious salad using local seasonal ingredients. It could be fun to assemble and prep a bunch of salad fixings and allow people to come up and make their own concoction. Or maybe you want to have a salad challenge on your social media channels.

Dessert – everyone loves dessert. Why not make up some great fruit desserts? Our favorite is banana split with fresh bananas, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and toasted nuts. Or you can make a fruit soup with blended fresh fruits. And if you really want something clever consider our all-time classic apples with Greek yogurt, honey, and toasted nuts!

Bean tour – what can they do with canned and dried beans? Why not have a bean bootcamp to make soups, chili dishes, dips, and salads using canned and or dried beans? These cook really fast in a pressure cooker or InstantPot and canned are always easy, too. Our favorite lentils cook in just 20 minutes without soaking.

Equipment – maybe you are a total foodie and have some really neat well-vetted equipment or tools that are very useful. You could have a day where you review equipment and how to use it. Of course this could be as simple as a peeler, knives, and a cutting board. Or it could add in InstantPots, microplane graters, Japanese mandolins, food processors, and a variety of steamers. Or maybe it is all about what a rice steamer can do? or how to wash greens in a lettuce spinner?

Local foods – Did you know that millenials are fast becoming part of an $8 billion local food industry? Check out local foods at various markets and farmer’s markets and show how to make what is in season right now.

Regardless of your topic, don’t forget your audience’s skills, culture and budget and remember to consider what your facility looks like. But most importantly be yourself and don’t worry that your ideas and skills won’t impress. Each person has a unique way of cooking and everyone loves to learn a new idea or way of doing things in the kitchen.

If you really want to polish your skills consider one of our books, a salad theme,

or our new upcoming webinar, 10 Successful Strategies for Cooking Demonstrations.

Got a question? Ask us!

Introduction to Cooking Demonstrations

Now is a great time for a cooking demonstration or two. Are you ready to rock a demo of your own? If you’re not sure where to start, then check out this selection from our new book, Home Run Cooking and Demonstrations, by Judy Doherty, PC II. It has everything you need to know about putting together a successful and engaging cooking demonstration. Remember, those details matter!

Winter Green Super Soup Cooking Demonstration Guide:

Soup is Super!Get Ready: A Day or Two before the Demonstration

  1. Read the recipe through in its entirety and make sure that each step is clear and makes sense to you.
  2. Gather your equipment. Will you be able to puree the soup on site? How? Small batches in a blender work well, as does placing an immersion blender right in the pot. A food processor works well too. Practice with these machines so that you look smooth during your demo and so that the soup does not spray everywhere because of a lid that doesn’t fit.
  3. Purchase your ingredients. Any soup demo lends itself well to a discussion of the sodium content of canned soups. Homemade soups are fresh, healthful alternatives. Pick up a couple cans of different kinds of soup so that you can discuss sodium content during some downtime in the demo.
  4. Print any handouts or recipes that you want to distribute to the group.
  5. Practice your demonstration a few times. Try to get family or friends to watch you and offer feedback.

Get Set: A Few Hours before the Demonstration

  1. Visit your demonstration site and ensure that all equipment there is ready to go.
  2. If your audience is large and you want to provide tastings, you can precook a large batch of soup ahead of time.
  3. Pack up your ingredients and equipment.
  4. Review food safety information to be sure that you have proper temperatures and materials for hand-washing, area cleaning, and sanitizing.
  5. Pre-measure all ingredients and place them in small cups or bags on your demo table. Put them in the order they will go into the recipe, with the first ones closest to you.

Go: During the Demonstration

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Introduce your ingredients and talk briefly about any notable ones.
  3. Introduce your cooking equipment and each piece’s role in the recipe.
  4. Outline the process you’re going to use to prepare the soup.
  5. During the downtime in your demonstration (or before/after the presentation), you can discuss the sodium issue with soup.
  6. When the soup is done, puree it.
  7. If you’re distributing samples, do so now and discuss the recipe with participants while they eat.

Tips from the Chef

  1. The most important variables for soups are the texture and the temperature. Cooking properly will assure a smoothly pureed soup. Test the veggies with a knife or by tasting them to make sure they are soft and ready to puree. Make sure you serve a hot soup hot and a cold soup cold.
  2. Do not be afraid to adjust the consistency with a little more liquid if needed.
  3. Since this soup can take a while to cook, you can also prepare a batch ahead of time (batch A), and then demonstrate the recipe (batch B) during your session, stopping just before you get to the long simmer. At that point, you can reheat and distribute samples from your earlier batch (batch A). If you don’t want to miss demonstrating how to puree the soup, then you could leave your first batch of soup (batch A) un-pureed. You could demonstrate how to make the soup up until the long simmer (batch B), then reveal your first batch (batch A) and run it through your blender, immersion blender, or food processor before distributing it as samples.

Take it Farther!

  1. Use the Fooducate app or website to grade various canned and prepared soups. This can be a demonstration or a group activity.
  2. Garnishes can also make or break a soup. Brainstorm healthful topping ideas as a group, and consider bringing some options to class ahead of time.

Like what you see? Get the cooking demo guide!

Home Run Cooking

Cooking Demo Display Kit

Cooking Demo Toolkit

Presentation Idea: Make an Artful Display

Cooking Demo ToolsWhen you’re giving a cooking demonstration, the way you present your ingredients can really make a difference in audience engagement. If you have things haphazardly tossed into bowls and plates, or even just zip lock bags, the instructions won’t be as clear and you won’t look as professional as you could.

Gather pretty prep bowls and other items that will make your presentation ingredients look more appealing. Be sure that all your tools and ingredients are ready to go before your class arrives to view the demonstration.

Linda L. Rankin, PhD, RD, LD, FADA, Professor and Assistant Dean at Idaho State University’s Division of Health Sciences and the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, uses gorgeous glass containers for her cooking classes. They’re called Prodyne Spice Towers. She told Food and Health, “I bought three and am going to use them in my Healthful Cooking class – 1 for legumes, 1 for rice, and 1 for grains. They will also be great for presentations, TV spots, and individual counseling.”

We loved these towers so much that we even pinned them to our list of favorite kitchen equipment on Pinterest. Check us out at!

For more great ideas for your next cooking demonstration, check out the options below…

Home Run Cooking: Book and Demo Program

Cooking Demonstration Kit

Cooking Demonstration Guide

Nutrition Apron