Teens Who Cook Are Healthier

Teens who cook are more likely to eat well, have better mental health and better family relationships.

A study from New Zealand reinforces findings from previous research: Teens who are able to cook a meal easily and who actually prepare meals more frequently:

  • eat more fruits and vegetables
  • eat less fast food
  • drink fewer soft drinks
  • share more meals with their family

But cooking among teens is not just associated with better nutrition. Teens who are able to cook a meal easily also scored better on measures of family connection and mental well-being. They had lower levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers who reported no cooking abilities.

Interestingly, cooking ability didn’t vary by gender or age. However, there were differences by income: Teens living in poverty were more likely to report no cooking ability. As well, teens from a European or Māori background were more likely to say they could cook a meal very easily, whereas teens from a Pacific Islander or Asian background were more likely to say they couldn’t cook a meal at all.

This study examined a nationally representative sample of 8,500 New Zealand high school students. It’s interesting to see the parallels between teens from the US, Canada and now New Zealand. The fact that study results cross borders from country to country strengthens the finding that cooking is associated with so many health benefits.

by Sydney Massey, MPH, RD


Adolescent Cooking Abilities and Behavior: Association with nutrition and emotional well-being. Utter J, Denny S, Lucassen M, Dyson B. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 48:1 (2016).

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