Back to basics

Revitalizing the 'lost art' of home cooking

parent and child cooking

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2016

Who taught you to cook?

If you are like me, a woman on the other side of 40, the likely answer is “I learned at home.” Many of us from that generation likely picked up some cooking skills in school as well.

How will your children answer that question? Who is teaching the next generation of adults to plan, select and prepare healthy foods for themselves and their families? 

Having sufficient food skills can improve confidence in and enjoyment of cooking. It also gives consumers more control over their food choices and allows them to buy lower-cost basic ingredients. People with food skills have a more varied, balanced and healthy diet than those without.

Sadly, home cooking is a dying art. You would think with the popularity of cooking programs, celebrity chefs and the general obsession with the Food Network that we would all be aspiring chefs.

Yet it seems that people are more interested in being “armchair chefs” than actually getting into the kitchen and preparing food from scratch. Fewer Canadians are cooking for themselves than ever, and this trend of declining food preparation is also happening on a global level. 

Research suggests that people are cooking less, and relying more and more on ultra-processed foods such frozen pizzas and microwavable dinners. In fact, a 2013 study reported that over 60 per cent of dietary energy in Canada came from ultra-processed products. Highly processed, convenience foods are often high in salt, sugar and fat, and low in fibre. Too much of these foods can increase your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

This shift from cooking with basic ingredients to an increasing reliance on processed foods is referred to as a “culinary transition.” 

This culinary transition is fuelled by many societal changes, including increased demands outside the home, less value placed on the importance of home-cooked meals, and the proliferation of convenient “heat and eat” processed foods.

Home economics and food and nutrition course enrolment in Manitoba schools is on the decline as well. Less than half of Grade 7 students take home economics, and the numbers decline the older the kids get. Only about 10 per cent of Grade 12 students receive any food skills education in school. Adolescents who report having food preparation skills also report making healthier food choices. Research shows that food preferences are shaped early in life and can set the stage for healthy habits in adulthood.

We teach our kids to tie their shoelaces. We show them how to cross the street safely. Let’s make it a priority to ensure they have another important life skill. Let’s teach them to cook. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

First Step: Make meal preparation and family meals a priority. Cook simple, healthy meals and do it more often. Take advantage of healthy packaged foods such as canned beans, canned fish, frozen vegetables and washed bagged salads. Time-crunched people can benefit from menu planning. For recipe ideas and menu planning tips, check out or download the Cookspiration app at

Next Step: Invite your kids into the kitchen. It will lessen your workload, teach them vital life skills and allow you to pass on family traditions. Hands-on learning is the best way to build skill and confidence with cooking.

Don’t Forget: Support and advocate for food skills programs and a healthy eating environment in your child’s school. Encourage your children to explore cooking programs in school and within the community.

Lorna Shaw-Hoeppner is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Wave: November / December 2016

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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