Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Barrett, Sheila

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

School of Health Studies


The ability to cook and prepare foods from fresh ingredients is a necessary life skill to improve overall diet quality and to prevent or reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Limited research exists on the appropriate time to develop these skills to have a long-term impact on diet quality and health. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether the age of learning cooking skills promotes higher cooking confidence and diet quality during adulthood. In addition, the study investigated the impact of learning cooking skills from various sources on diet quality and cooking confidence in adulthood. A cross-sectional survey study was conducted at Northern Illinois University on college students between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. There were 487 study participants who completed the online survey. The results of the study indicate that the mean adults’ diet quality score was 45.76 ±11.4, as measured by the Short Healthy Eating Index scale. The study results showed that the age for acquiring cooking skills did not significantly impact adults’ diet quality. The majority of participants reported the main influence for the development of their cooking skills was their mother, or they taught themselves through books, videos or the internet. However, no significant relationship was found between the most influential source of learning cooking skills and adults’ diet quality, p=0.132. The study also found that females had significantly higher diet quality scores than males, p=0.001. Significant differences between acquiring cooking skills before adulthood on adults’ cooking skills confidence was found (p=0.007). Study participants who learned cooking skills during childhood and as teenagers had higher Cooking Skills Confidence scores than those who learned cooking skills during adulthood. In addition, participants who taught themselves to cook had significantly higher cooking skills confidence scores than those who were taught by their mother (p=0.019). Many factors influence whether cooking skills can be learned earlier in life to help in eating healthier foods. Despite the complexity of these issues, this study shed light on the influence that learning cooking skills at a younger age can have on building stronger confidence in cooking skills later in life to make healthier food choices. Since the development of cooking skills can influence diet quality, it is important to further explore this relationship to improve diet quality and decrease the prevalence of chronic diseases.


98 pages




Northern Illinois University

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