Nutrition-wise blog

Are you food illiterate? You're not alone

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. April 17, 2010

Are you food illiterate? If so, you appear to be in the majority. Recent headlines paint a dismal picture of what's happening to cooking these days:

  • "People's lack of food skills is getting in the way of them being able to make healthy food choices."
  • "Kitchen gadgets take the fast-food mentality into the home."
  • Some people — parents and children alike — have never seen a cabbage or a baked potato but they know coleslaw and French fries.

Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology studying the food skills of 16 to 26 year olds noted that these teens and young adults are food illiterate — they don't have the skills to choose and cook healthy food. The root cause, they suspect, is that these young people come from homes where meals and food preparation were outsourced.

At the recent International Home and Housewares show in Chicago, which drew 60,000 people, the focus was on gadgets that reduce cooking to a one- or two-step process, such as:

  • A toaster that toasts bread and poaches an egg simultaneously.
  • Toaster ovens with a "pizza bump" (a rounded front) to allow frozen pizza to more easily fit.
  • Ovens and microwaves with pizza and chicken-nugget buttons for "one-touch cooking."

If you count yourself among the food illiterate, would you like to change? Then try this one-week challenge:

  • Just say no to eating out. Yep, no eating at restaurants. Eat only food from home, preferably at home.
  • Eat only "real food." Think whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, small cuts of poultry, fish, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. Avoid boxed or frozen dinners and "junk food" snacks.
  • Get a cookbook. Or go online for recipes. Look for ones from recognized health organizations. Choose a few easy and appealing recipes, and give them a go.

By the end of the week, you'll definitely know what skills you have — and the ones you lack.

What have you tried to improve your food literacy? Share your ideas. Let's learn from each other.

- Jennifer

8 Comments Posted

Apr. 17, 2010