To examine whether involvement in food preparation tracks over time, between adolescence (15-18 years), emerging adulthood (19-23 years) and the mid-to-late twenties (24-28 years), as well as 10-year longitudinal associations between home food preparation, dietary quality and meal patterning.
Population-based, longitudinal cohort study.
Participants were originally sampled from Minnesota public secondary schools (USA).
Participants enrolled in Project EAT (Eating Among Teens and Young Adults)-I, EAT-II and EAT-III (n 1321).
Most participants in their mid-to-late twenties reported an enjoyment of cooking (73 % of males, 80 % of females); however, few prepared meals including vegetables most days of the week (24 % of males, 41 % of females). Participants in their mid-to-late twenties who enjoyed cooking were more likely to have engaged in food preparation as adolescents and emerging adults (P < 0·01); those who frequently prepared meals including vegetables were more likely to have engaged in food preparation as emerging adults (P < 0·001), but not as adolescents. Emerging adult food preparation predicted better dietary quality five years later in the mid-to-late twenties, including higher intakes of fruit, vegetables and dark green/orange vegetables, and less sugar-sweetened beverage and fast-food consumption. Associations between adolescent food preparation and later dietary quality yielded few significant results.
Food preparation behaviours appeared to track over time and engagement in food preparation during emerging adulthood, but not adolescence, was associated with healthier dietary intake during the mid-to-late twenties. Intervention studies are needed to understand whether promoting healthy food preparation results in improvements in eating patterns during the transition to adulthood.