A team of Cornell University researchers, led by Lizzy Pope, who is now an assistant professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Vermont, found that of the 501 women aged 20-35 years they surveyed those who obtained recipes from cooking shows and cooked from scratch weighed an average of 11 pounds more than those who watched television shows about food but did not often cook.
In addition, the mean body mass index of cooking show viewers and doers was 27.48 compared to only 25.66 for those who watched the shows but did not cook, according to the study published in Appetite.
Sourcing recipes from other media outlets did not have a similar correlation, the study noted.
This finding contradicts the common belief that cooking from scratch results in healthier eating and slimmer waistlines, but the correlation also makes sense given that many cooking shows feature high fat, indulgent meals that have excessive calories, the researchers noted.
In addition, the study says, “watching chefs prepare indulgent dishes on TV, watching a famous host enjoy over-the-top foods with other people all over the country, or viewing others’ social media food pictures and recipes might suggest a social norm for preparing these types of foods” even though they are unhealthy.
Americans, especially women, who are bombarded with images of slim people and dieting messages might take comfort in the “permission” to enjoy decadent foods granted by chefs, celebrities and other “authorities” on the shows, the study hypothesizes.
Impact on food and beverage marketing
The findings are important for food and beverage manufacturers because “understanding where young women obtain information about new foods may be important when attempting to influence or shape their food preferences,” the authors said.
“Furthermore,” they add, “it may be that watching a ‘healthy’ cooking show or viewing ‘health’ recipes from social media could nudge viewers toward preparing healthy meals, which could be a powerful tool for improving public health.”
This was the idea behind baby carrot and fresh juice company Bolthouse Farms’ recent social media “Fruit and Veggie Takeover” campaign, which encouraged people to post about eating fruits and veggies instead of unhealthy foods.
Using the hashtag #URWHATUPOST, the company wanted to raise awareness about eating healthier to be healthier. The campaign also generated positive social media buzz about the company and its brands.