Cooking Without Thinking: How Understanding Cooking as a Practice can shed new light on inequalities in healthy eating

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)
    288 Downloads (Pure)


    In the UK the way we eat has become the biggest cause of preventable illness and death, placing a huge burden on our health system. Studies have found this is particularly true for those in more deprived areas. In the context of cheap ultra-processed foods, public health interventions to reduce this healthy eating gap often promote cooking ‘from scratch’ as a means of making increased fruit and vegetable consumption affordable on a tight budget. However the effectiveness of such healthy cooking interventions is debated. This research sought to address this problem by using practice theory to highlight previously overlooked non-cognitive factors involved in everyday cooking performances and consider how they might affect inequalities in healthy eating. Our findings are based on in-depth qualitative research with 25 mothers (including interviews and cooking observations) and a quantitative survey of 310 respondents. In the first section we build the case that cooking is better understood as a practice by outlining the different non-cognitive elements involved in mundane performances of cooking at home (focusing on materials, meanings and competencies). In the second section we focus on the complex relationships between social deprivation, diet and cooking practices, exploring the under-examined links between macro-scale social inequalities
    and the more micro-scale repeated performances of everyday activities. More specifically we show how social deprivation can impact upon the materials, meanings and competencies of cooking practices in ways that severely limit the capacity for those in more deprived areas to frequently cook with healthier unprocessed ingredients. Finally, we contend that by viewing cooking as a practice and by designing interventions based on this foundation it would be possible to achieve significant benefits to public health.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number104503
    Early online date7 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

    Bibliographical note

    NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Appetite. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Appetite, 147 (2020)] DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104503

    © 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


    • Healthy Eating
    • Practice Theory
    • Social Inequality

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Sociology and Political Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Cooking Without Thinking: How Understanding Cooking as a Practice can shed new light on inequalities in healthy eating'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this