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Home food preparation practices, experiences and perceptions: A qualitative interview study with photo-elicitation

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Mills, S 
Wriden, W 
Brown, H 
Stead, M 


Food-related choices have an important impact on health. Food preparation methods may be linked to diet and health benefits. However, the factors influencing people’s food choices, and how they are shaped by food preparation experiences, are still not fully understood. We aimed to study home food preparation practices, experiences and perceptions amongst adults in North East England. A matrix was used to purposively sample participants with diverse socio-demographic characteristics. Participants developed photographic food diaries that were used as prompts during semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using the Framework Method. Interviews were conducted with 18 adults (five men and 13 women), aged approximately 20 to 80 years, to reach data saturation. Participants’ practices varied widely, from reliance on pre-prepared foods, to preparing complex meals entirely from basic ingredients. Key themes emerged regarding the cook (identity), the task (process of cooking), and the context (situational drivers). Resources, in terms of time, money and facilities, were also underpinning influences on food preparation. Participants’ practices were determined by both personal motivations to cook, and the influence of others, and generally reflected compromises between varied competing demands and challenges in life. Most people appeared to be overall content with their food preparation behaviour, though ideally aspired to cook more frequently, using basic ingredients. This often seemed to be driven by social desirability. Home food preparation is complex, with heterogeneous practices, experiences and perceptions both between individuals and within the same individual over time, according to shifting priorities and circumstances. Generalisability of these findings may be limited by the regional participant sample; however the results support and build upon previous research. Focussing interventions on life transition points at which priorities and circumstances change, with careful targeting to stimulate personal motivation and social norms, may prove effective in encouraging home food preparation.



Adult, Cooking, Diet, Diet Records, England, Feeding Behavior, Female, Food Preferences, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motivation, Qualitative Research, Time Factors

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/G007462/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K023187/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K02325X/1)
This report is independent research arising from a Doctoral Research Fellowship Grant DRF-2014-07-020 for the lead author (SM), supported by the National Institute for Health Research. JA and MW received funding from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. HB and SM are members of Fuse, also a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Grant reference number is MR/K02325X/1. Funding for CEDAR and for Fuse from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UKCRC, is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the Department of Health, the funders or UKCRC. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.