There’s another reason why you should give cooking a chance. A recent study discovered that people like healthy food more if they make it themselves.
In the study, which was published in the journal Health Psychology, 120 women tasted milkshakes—with healthy ingredients or unhealthy ingredients—that they either made themselves, or that was prepared by someone else. They were asked to rate how much they liked the milkshake as well as how healthy they thought it was.
When the women made the milkshakes themselves, they were given an ingredient list for either a low-calorie raspberry milkshake or a high-calorie chocolate milkshake and they followed the directions. Then they either tasted a milkshake they made themselves, or one that was made by someone else. In all the groups, the shake was freshly made and the women saw the recipe and ingredients for the shake they were tasting.
The researchers discovered that the women were more likely to enjoy the healthier milkshake if they made it themselves. Self-preparing the unhealthy milkshake had no effect on how women thought it tasted. The researchers write that the findings “suggests that self-preparation increases the health salience of foods, because when people prepare foods, they become more aware of the ingredients that constitute a food.”
The study authors say their findings support what prior research has deemed the “IKEA effect,” where people like or give higher value to objects that they create themselves (like IKEA furniture). “According to this, people like self-made objects more than objects that were created by someone else because they have put more effort in these self-made objects,” the authors write. “In addition, these efforts feel rewarding, because self-created products also signal competence to the self and others.”
The study has limitations, since the number of people involved in the trial was small and the women were tasting milkshakes only, and not other foods. More research is also needed to understand the underlying reason why women preferred the healthy milkshakes that they made themselves. Still, the study authors argue that their findings could inform campaigns to get people to eat healthier. “Public health programs could promote home food preparation by, for example, providing families with simple but healthy recipes in order to foster heathy eating at home,” the researchers conclude.
They also suggest that workplaces and schools could get involved by offering places for people to “build-your-own” sandwiches and salads, and involving young people in lunch preparation.