Cooking as a Health Behavior in College Students

Overview

Students who live off campus at the University of Vermont will be recruited to participate in the study which will begin in Fall 2019 and run through May 2020. The intervention is a randomized-controlled trial where students will be randomized into one of four conditions: 1) active cooking classes followed by meal kits and recipes, 2) Active cooking classes followed by no further instruction, 3) Demonstration classes followed by meal kits and recipes, or 4) Demonstration classes followed by no further instruction. Assessments will be conducted at baseline and following each phase.

Full Title of Study: “Examining Cooking as a Health Behavior in College Students”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: None (Open Label)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: May 2020

Detailed Description

The proposed pilot study is a randomized trial to evaluate whether cooking classes produce greater gains in cooking skills and food agency than cooking demonstrations, as well as whether provision of meal delivery and recipes result in more frequent cooking than no meal delivery or recipes. There will be three phases to the study intervention and four study conditions. All conditions will receive 6 weeks of cooking classes, either active or demonstration, and two conditions will also receive a continued intervention including 6 weeks of meal kit delivery service followed by another 6 weeks of recipe provision.

Phase 1- Cooking classes. All participants will attend 1 kitchen intensive session followed by 1 cooking class (active or demonstration) per week for 6 weeks

Phase 2- Meal Kits. Assigned participants will receive meal kit deliveries once per week for 6 weeks.

Phase 3- Recipes. Assigned participants will receive 5 healthy recipes by email once per week for 6 weeks.

The investigators will randomize 64 students to one of four intervention conditions.

Group A (n=16) – Active cooking classes followed by meal kits and recipes Group B (n=16) – Active cooking classes followed by no further instruction Group C (n=16) – Demonstration classes followed by meal kits and recipes Group D (n=16) – Demonstration classes followed by no further instruction

Assessments will be conducted at baseline, and following each phase.

Cooking Classes: The demonstration condition will serve as an "attention only" control. Previous research suggests that demonstrations of cooking have little to no impact on cooking behavior, therefore, cooking demonstrations can be used to "even out" the time and attention devoted to the active cooking participants without introducing bias into the study design. Subjects in the demonstration condition will also begin with a brief lecture on the day's lesson followed by a cooking demonstration that covers the same topics as the active intervention group. All participants will receive the same printed information and also have an opportunity to sample the prepared food at the end of class. The demonstrations will be led by the same chef as the active intervention group.

Meal Kits: With the meal delivery service, participants will get all the ingredients they need to make a meal as well as a recipe for the meal which includes step-by-step photos. They are then responsible for doing the actual cooking of the meal. Students will all receive kits for 3 meals per week from the same delivery service and will have the option to select meals that fit their dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten free, etc.). Meal kits are designed to serve two individuals therefore students should have enough food for six meals, though they will only need to cook three times. The service used is open to the public, therefore students who enjoyed the meal kit service could opt to continue service and pay for it themselves. However, students will be instructed to wait until study completion to do so.

Recipes: Recipes will be designed by the research team, which includes three registered dietitians and a trained chef. Students will receive recipes for five healthy meals per week. Participants will need to shop, budget, and plan on their own. Recipes will accommodate major dietary preferences including vegetarian and gluten-free.

Interventions

  • Behavioral: Active Cooking + Meal Kits + Recipes
    • 6 cooking classes will be held every week for 6 consecutive weeks. The lessons are patterned after Dr. Amy Trubek’s cooking pedagogy and will be tailored for those cooking for themselves for the first time. Classes begin with a brief lecture on the day’s topic. Students will work in teams of 2 in the foods lab to actively practice skills and cook a meal. Students receive recipes and information sheets that cover pantry supplies, grocery lists, knife skills and cooking equipment. All students attend a 2 hour kitchen intensive demonstration as an orientation. After 6 weeks students receive 6 weeks of meal kits followed by 6 weeks of recipes.
  • Behavioral: Active cooking
    • Students receive the same cooking intervention and kitchen intensive orientation as described in the Active cooking + meal kits + recipes. However, once the 6 weeks of the cooking class have ended, there is no further intervention.
  • Behavioral: Demonstration class + Meal Kits + Recipes
    • Students receive the Kitchen Intensive orientation as described previously. The demonstration condition will serve as an “attention only” control. Previous research suggests that demonstrations of cooking have little to no impact on cooking behavior, therefore, cooking demonstrations can be used to “even out” the time and attention devoted to the active cooking participants without introducing bias into the study design. Subjects in the demonstration condition will also begin with a brief lecture on the day’s lesson followed by a cooking demonstration that covers the same topics as the active intervention group. All students will receive the same printed information and also have an opportunity to sample the prepared food at the end of class. The demonstrations will be led by the same chef as the active intervention group. Following 6 weeks of demonstration classes, students will receive meal kits, then recipes as describe in the Active Cooking + meal kits + recipes arm.
  • Behavioral: Demonstration Classes
    • The demonstration condition is the same as described in the demonstration class + meal kits + recipes, except that there will be no further intervention after the 6 weekly classes of cooking demonstrations. Kitchen Intensive. As part of the orientation process, participants will attend a 2-hour kitchen intensive demonstration. This demonstration will introduce participants to the kitchen lab space and cover basic kitchen skills including food safety, sanitation, equipment overview, and the basic principles of food agency. The Kitchen Intensive is the same for all arms.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Active Cooking +meal kits and recipes
    • Participants will attend a weekly 2-hour cooking class to learn how to prepare meals. Participants cook and sample the meal at the end of class and the chef will walk them through a sensory exercise. At the end of each class, participants will be provided with the recipe for the next class and asked to create a timeline for the various steps of preparation. Participants will bring this timeline to class and discuss as a group before preparing the meal. Following 6 weeks of cooking classes, participants will receive 6 weeks of home-delivered meal kits. Following 6 weeks of meal kits, participants will received 6 weeks of recipes. Both the meal kits and recipes will accommodate major dietary needs (vegan, gluten-free, etc.)
  • Active Comparator: Active cooking only
    • Participants will attend a weekly 2-hour cooking class to learn how to prepare meals. Participants cook and sample the meal at the end of class and the chef will walk them through a sensory exercise. At the end of each class, participants will be provided with the recipe for the next class and asked to create a timeline for the various steps of preparation. Participants will bring this timeline to class and discuss as a group before preparing the meal. Unlike the previous arm, no further instruction will be given once cooking classes end.
  • Active Comparator: Demonstration classes + meal kits and recipes
    • Participants attend a weekly 2-hour cooking demonstration to learn how to prepare the same meals as in other groups. Students will sample the meal at the end of class and the chef will walk them through a sensory exercise. At the end of each class, participants will be provided with the recipe for the next class and asked to create a timeline for the various steps of preparation. Students will bring this timeline to class and discuss as a group before preparing the meal or watching the demonstration. At the conclusion of 6 weeks, students will receive weekly meal kit deliveries for 6 weeks. Following 6 weeks of meal kit deliveries, students will receive emails at the beginning of each week providing them with 5 healthy recipes.
  • Placebo Comparator: Demonstration classes only
    • Participants will receive the same 2-hour cooking demonstration as in the other demonstration arm, but there is no further intervention after 6 weeks of cooking demos.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Diet Quality Change
    • Time Frame: 0, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 18 weeks
    • Diet quality change from baseline to 18 weeks will be measure by the Healthy Eating Index.

Secondary Measures

  • Cooking and Food Practices Change
    • Time Frame: 0, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 18 weeks
    • Cooking and Food Practices Change from baseline to 6, 12 and 18 weeks will be measured by The Cooking and Food Provisioning Action Scale (CAFPAS), which measures food preparation skills and capacities. The CAFPAS contains 28 items administered with responses chosen from a 7-point bipolar Likert scale. There are three subscales: Self-Efficacy (measures whether an individual thinks their cooking ability and skills are adequate), Attitude (measures an individual’s affective stance towards food, cooking and provisioning in different areas), and Structure (measures the ways in which external factors can either hinder or support an individual’s cooking and provisioning actions). Subscales are scored by coding responses from 1-7, reversing them as necessary, summing the items and dividing by the standard deviation of the sample population’s scores on the subscale. The overall CAFPAS score is the sum of the three subscales. A higher score on the CAFPAS is associated with improvement.
  • Change in Cooking Perceptions and Behaviors
    • Time Frame: 0, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 18 weeks
    • Cooking perceptions change of what constitutes “cooking” will be measured using the Cooking Perceptions/Attitudes/Confidence/Behaviors Survey. Responses to questions regarding what food preparation activities constitute cooking are measured on a 7-point Likert scale. The minimum score is 0 and the maximum score is 7.
  • Change in Stress Level
    • Time Frame: 0, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 18 weeks
    • The Perceived Stress Scale is a reliable and valid measure of perceived stress in adults including college students. 10 questions assess how often one perceives various forms of stress such as feeling unable to control important events, being upset by something unexpected, and feeling nervous.
  • Change in Cooking Frequency
    • Time Frame: weekly for 18 weeks
    • Participants will complete a brief survey weekly to record how many times that week they cooked at home.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Undergraduate students at the University of Vermont living off campus independently (may have roommates but not live with a guardian)
  • Ages 18-25
  • Cooks dinner at home no more than 3x/week
  • Access to a kitchen at home
  • Availability during scheduled cooking classes/demonstrations

Exclusion Criteria

  • Students will be excluded from the study if they do not complete baseline data collection measures prior to the first class meeting.

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 25 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of Vermont
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Lizzy Pope, Assistant Professor and DPD Director – University of Vermont
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Lizzy F Pope, PhD, Principal Investigator, University of Vermont
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Mattie E Alpaugh, MS, 802-656-9526, malpaugh@uvm.edu

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