Families Need Guidance in the Kitchen: Research

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Families Need Guidance in the Kitchen: Research

According to a recent Rutgers University study commissioned by the Canned Food Alliance (CFA), mothers want, and need a better grasp of, kitchen basics. When they received instructions on healthy meal preparation, grocery shopping, kitchen organization and food storage practices, all made positive changes toward providing improved family meals, the research found.

Rutgers conducted the study among a subsample of mothers of young children across the university’s home state of New Jersey, which features a diversely population reflecting national demographics. The researchers interviewed the study participants to determine the basic kitchen and food requirements of each and came up with an action program to meet those needs. The first phase of the study discovered that moms want and need ideas for easy, quick and healthful meals that include the use of such short-cut ingredients as canned foods to speed preparation time; time-saving tips on healthful food preparation, ingredients and alternatives, methods and techniques; and cost-effective ways to help them get the most nutrition from their food dollar.

“Previous research showed that there is a disconnect between what families are keeping on hand and what they’re actually turning into meals,” noted lead researcher Carol Byrd-Bredbenner of the Rurger’s Nutritional Sciences Department. “This study reinforced the idea that moms need help putting nutritious meals on the table, and after evaluating the data, Rutgers researchers developed educational tools to help moms be the family nutrition hero that they desire to be.”

The action plans created by Rutgers dealt with healthful meal planning and grocery shopping, kitchen organization, and food storage practices. When another sample group of moms carried out those action plans at homes under the guidance of a registered dietitian, they made positive changes in the kitchen, among them improving the nutritional content of their meals using short-cut ingredients, reorganizing and de-cluttering their kitchens; and better organizing their freezer and pantry foods by type or category.

In the wake of the study, the Pittsburgh-based CFA joined up with food and nutrition author and educator Roberta L. Duyff to develop an Essential Kitchen Toolkit, which is modeled after the Rutgers action plans. The Toolkit provides easy-to-read guides for planning and preparing healthful meals, navigating the grocery store and organizing the kitchen, in addition to a collection of simple recipes, a kitchen glossary, and food and kitchen safety tips.

“[C]anned foods are more relevant than ever in helping people put today’s version of Home Ec 101, or At-Home Economics, into practice in their own kitchens,” said Rich Tavoletti, executive director of the Canned Food Alliance. “We’re offering all home cooks the Essential Kitchen Toolkit so they can make nutritious, delicious family meals that incorporate canned foods -- even when in a hurry. Convenient canned foods are already cooked, so they require less prep work and allow families to get the most nutritional bang for their buck.”

On behalf of the CFA, Duyff has written “Home Economics to Family and Consumer Sciences: Reinvented for Today’s Consumer,” a position paper providing actionable, usable tips and information on how canned foods help consumers to prepare safe, nourishing, economical, convenient and tasty meals.

The Essential Kitchen Toolkit, the position paper and links to published research from Rutgers are available online at www.mealtime.org.