In this article, Associate Professor Lauren Ball, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Principal Research Fellow at Griffith University shares three benefits for men to embrace the kitchen and showcase their culinary skills.

2020 will go down in history as a ripper of a year, disrupting the way we live, work and move. But did you know it has the potential to influence the way men approach food and nutrition positively?

This Men’s Health Week we are celebrating men in the kitchen and the positive impact that COVID-19 has had on their relationship with food. We encourage all men to take charge of their health with healthy eating because of the widespread benefits it brings to themselves, family and society. Not only does healthy eating help to manage weight (men have the upper hand!), there are other benefits that you may not know. Check these out:

Healthy eating supports mental health

Men’s mental health is a priority now more than ever because of the disruption and isolation that is accompanying COVID-19 for many males. Men make up a staggering three-quarters of suicides in Australia. Improving diet over a relatively short period (a recent study showed three weeks is enough) can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults. Aim for your diet to be rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and lean meat – all of which has been associated with reduced risk of depression. Want to learn more about how much to have of each food group? Check our Australia’s Guide to Healthy Eating and aim for six serves of veggies, two serves of fruit and three serves of fish or lean meat each day. Yummo.

Preparing your food improves your knowledge and skills

Men who understand where food comes from and can source, prepare and store their food have healthier diets. During the COVID-19 period, men are increasingly at home with the opportunity to get closer to the shopping and cooking action. Some men have found themselves taking on these traditional ‘domestic duties’ if their partners are health care workers. This is a good thing and another reason to celebrate! Shopping, preparing and cooking food not only helps others in your family but also (re)connects you with your food and where it comes from. No wonder we are seeing food chains disrupted as individuals find greater interest in locally produced, healthy food for themselves and their family.

Getting in the kitchen sets a positive role model for your children

My children happily tell me that ‘Daddy is the boss of the kitchen’ and I’m delighted to hear it. With one young boy and two young girls at home, I’m acutely aware that their assumptions about family and domestic life are being shaped each night at the dinner table. Having a male as ‘the best cook in the family’ tells me that the traditional house-wife assumption may finally be finished before this generation reaches adulthood. Hallelujah! Want to go one step further? Cooking WITH your children is even more reason celebrate. Involving the kids helps them think about maths, encourages reading and supports them to think about their food too.

For more information about Associate Professor Lauren Ball’s research, please visit the Healthy Primary Care website. If you’d like to learn more about encouraging healthy relationships with food, consider a career in nutrition and dietetics with one of our many degrees.