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V. Zabala, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, Orlando, FL.

Situation: In general, foods prepared away from home provide more calories, sodium, and saturated fats than foods prepared at home. The Food & Drug Administration reports that for the average adult, eating one meal away from home each week translates to a two pound weight gain per year. Lack of knowledge and skills in planning, shopping, and preparing healthy meals can lead to increased eating away from home. UF/IFAS Extension Orange County adapted and piloted North Carolina’s Cook Smart, Eat Smart curriculum to equip adults with basic cooking skills and nutrition knowledge. Objective: Increase participants’ knowledge, self-efficacy, and intention of preparing healthy meals at home.

Methods: The series consisted of four 3-hour sessions. Through lecture, recipe demonstration and hands-on food preparation, participants learned a variety of healthy cooking techniques and skills. These included knife skills, roasting, baking, grilling, and preparing packet meals. Participants worked in groups to prepare recipes that were sampled by all.

Results: Fifteen individuals completed the series and post survey. 100% of respondents indicated increased knowledge in food preparation skills and cooking techniques not previously used, 100% were somewhat confident or very confident in their ability to prepare healthy meals, and 100% (of n=3 who were not already doing this) intended to prepare more meals at home and use healthy cooking methods more often.

Conclusion: Equipping individuals with the conceptual nutrition knowledge is only as effective as the participants’ ability to put knowledge into practice. Through the Cook Smart, Eat Smart series participants acquire technical expertise and practice, thus increasing knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and intention to prepare and consume healthier foods at home. This simple behavior change can help participants manage their weight and prevent associated health conditions.


  1. Great to see you are offering this much needed series. Many people lack the basic skills of cooking, which is critical in maintaining health and even ties into financial health. Thanks for your work Vigi!

  2. I appreciate your statement about nutrition knowledge only being as effective as participants’ ability to put into practice. It seems that you were very successful in encouraging practice change with your clientele.

  3. These skills should make a difference in overall health and impact the participants over the long term.

    • Hi LuAnn! Yes, absolutely! I had a few participants who commented on how they felt healthier and even a few pounds lighter because of their new cooking skills!

  4. Do you plan to do a followup survey to see how many attendees are still using their new skills?

    • Hi Liz! That’s a great idea. I will check-in and ask if they are still using their skills, and if they need additional resources at this time!