One of the greatest obstacles to healthy eating and overcoming weight woes for young women is that they are more likely to reach for a telephone or credit card than a pot and pan to conjure up their next meal.
A recent study by peak nutrition body Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA), found that while more than three quarters of women aged 18-24 enjoyed the odd spot of cooking – many still opt for fast food solutions for their daily meals.
With rates of weight gain in this group of young women higher than any others, the health group warns there could be disastrous consequences to their long-term health and fertility.
The study, which surveyed hundreds of young women, revealed that they believed take-away foods were much more readily available and convenient than having to whip up a meal at home.
The findings coincide with the launch of Healthy Weight Week, from the 20th-27th of January – a campaign that aims to inspire young women to cook more at home, in an effort to curb obesity.
“With Australia in the grip of an obesity epidemic, and younger women particularly prone to weight gain, cooking a proper main meal at home could be the answer to improving diet and weight problems in this age group,” Professor Claire Collins, a DAA spokesperson, said in a statement released this week.
Collins also pointed out that research had found those more involved in the preparation of their daily meals were much more likely to meet nutritional guidelines and enjoy a well-balanced diet. Furthermore, she added that people with a dislike of cooking were found to have a substantially lower intake of fruit and vegetables, and an elevated intake of foods high in saturated fats.
“Food cooked at home is typically more nutritious than that prepared away from home. It’s easier to get in lots of variety by cooking at home using fresh ingredients, and it can be fast if you plan ahead” Collins said.
“At home, you can pick and choose your ingredients – so you can add healthy flavours from lean cuts of meat, vegetables, herbs and spices, and go easy on the less healthy ingredients. That way, you’ll get important nutrients like protein, iron and calcium, without overdoing the nasties like saturated fat, added sugar and salt,’ she added.
While we have many good examples and encouragement from the rise of food-related cooking shows and entertainment, that doesn’t always translate into a love of cooking in our own kitchens at home.
“Watching talented amateur cooks and celebrity chefs on TV is one thing, but actually doing the cooking ourselves is what matters,” says practicing dietitian Michelle Ryan.
Ryan believes that this is because the key to becoming a masterchef at home is planning and preparation. Being organised and thinking ahead would make it much easier for women to get cooking in the kitchen, she believes.
“Try to set aside some time each week to work out a menu plan for the week ahead, which includes what you’ll eat for lunch and dinner and factors in any times you know you’ll be out. Then make a detailed shopping list and head to the shops or local markets to stock up on fresh, healthy food,” Ryan says.
Celebrity chef Luke Mangan, agrees, which is why he has also thrown his support behind the cooking crusade. Mangan has prepared a cookbook with a week’s worth of healthy and simple gourmet meals which you can download for free from the healthy weight week website.
While you’re there, you can also self-assess your eating habits and weight to find out if you are at risk as well as learn fitness tips, find out how to decipher food labels, and take the 10 week challenge to healthier eating.
Visit www.healthyweightweek.com.au for more information.