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Self-Preparation Can Increase Enjoyment of Healthy Food 

Remember when we said you can get your family to eat more fruits and vegetables by making them taste better? Well what if we said healthy food actually tastes better when you prepare it yourself? A 2016 study published in the journal Health Psychology says it’s time to get in the kitchen.

European researchers recruited 120 women to taste-test either a 190 calorie raspberry shake (deemed healthy) or a 500 calorie chocolate shake (definitely unhealthy). Participants either made the shakes themselves or were given premade shakes with a recipe to review. While tasting, they answered questions about how much they liked their drinks and how healthy they thought the drinks were. 

When women made the raspberry shakes themselves, they liked the drinks far more than when someone else prepared the drinks. Scientists call this the “IKEA effect,” which is the idea that people prefer things they create themselves because they put in more effort and feel more rewarded. 

There’s more: People who made their own raspberry shakes found the drinks healthier than those who got the premade shakes. On the flip side, participants who got the premade chocolate shakes rated them healthier (they were not healthy!) than those who made the drinks themselves. This is the idea of “health salience.” When people physically make their own food, they are more aware of the ingredients, which could make nutritious foods seem more appealing—or could deter you from eating unhealthy junk. 

Sure, this study was small and tested the concept using fairly sweet shakes, but making your own food at home is rarely a bad idea. Cooking at home has been linked to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and sitting down to meals as a family may help lower BMI and risk of depression. "When you cook food yourself, you take pride in your meals and are more likely to make healthful decisions and choose nutritious ingredients," explains Chef Mark Allison, Director of Culinary Nutrition at Dole. 

Get in the kitchen this holiday season and all year round and cook your own food as often as possible. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated—you can follow a complex recipe or simply broil salmon, steam some broccoli and prepare brown rice. is filled with fast and easy recipes perfect for weeknight cooking.

Published December 1, 2016

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