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Covid has stirred up our cooking habits, study led by QUB reveals

We're using more fresh food... but amount of saturated fat is rising too


Findings: Dr Fiona Lavelle, lead researcher from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security

Findings: Dr Fiona Lavelle, lead researcher from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security

Findings: Dr Fiona Lavelle, lead researcher from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security

The pandemic lockdown has changed our relationship with food for better and worse, with some turning to comfort eating while others home cooked their way to a better diet, researchers in Northern Ireland have found.

How we shop for food, cook and eat has changed significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the international survey led by Queen's University, Belfast suggests.

Positive changes such as an increase in home-cooking and cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients were recorded.

However, there were also negative trends, such as a reported increase in saturated-fat intake.

A spike in bulk buying - which can lead to shortages, triggering further panic-buying - was also observed during the study.

The survey was conducted last May and June when many countries were under some form of lockdown. It questioned 2,360 adults across the island of Ireland, Great Britain the US, and New Zealand.

The main findings, published in the Nutrients journal, are believed to be the first published research across multiple continents on changing food practices due to Covid-19.

The most marked differences occurred between the US, where there were fewer changes, and the other three regions. For example, an increase in vegetable intake was seen across all regions except the US. There was also an upturn in home-cooking and home-baking frequency in all regions except the US.

Parents cooking and baking with children was also found to increase in all samples except the US - and parents who included their children in the preparation of family meals more frequently had a better diet.

On the other hand, an increase in saturated-fat intake was seen everywhere except the US.

Overall, there was a decrease in the consumption of takeaway food and a rise in 'organisational food practices' - such as planning ahead.

When it came to management - preparing in advance or batch cooking, for example - however, there were no changes apparent for Ireland or New Zealand. This could be because Irish and NZ restrictions were stricter than in other areas, so there may have been less of a need to prepare food in advance.

Lead researcher Dr Fiona Lavelle from Queen's Institute for Global Food Security said: "We wanted to find out what impact the pandemic and lockdowns were having on people's health but we also wanted to try to find a way of measuring the effect on global food systems. Thankfully, there is some good news in our findings and many people have benefited from cooking more at home and eating a better variety of fresh food.

"One of the survey results that interested me most was that cooking with children has increased, which is good for the children - but our study highlighted potential positive benefits for parents' diet quality too when children were involved."

"With continued lockdowns and perhaps more people working from home in the future, I believe that including children in cooking activities should be a key public-health message going forward."

Belfast Telegraph