Because the majority of Americans in their 50s and older were already capable cooks when COVID-19 closed down the nation, preparing nutritious meals at home seven days a week was most likely easy during the first phase of the pandemic, according to the most recent National Poll on Healthy Aging. The annual survey, which included more than 2,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 80, was conducted by University of Michigan researchers just a few months before pandemic-related shutdowns began.
Fortunately, the survey results also linked those home-cooked meals to better health. Participants who rated their overall physical health as either “excellent” or “very good” were the most likely to say they enjoyed cooking and were confident in their cooking skills. Those who usually cooked dinner at home were likely to rate the quality of their diets as “excellent” or “very good” as well.
One in four respondents said they ate most or all of their meals alone, even before social distancing became the norm. Those who cooked meals for one on a daily basis reported less healthy diets than those who rarely or never ate alone.
In addition, 11% of older adults surveyed said they ate fast food three times a week or more. This group was less likely to rate their overall diet as healthy.
Only 5% of the survey participants had ever ordered groceries online before the pandemic hit.
According to the University of Michigan researchers, the data provide a baseline of knowledge about older Americans’ food shopping, cooking and dining out habits just before COVID-19 instilled fear about going the grocery store and closed sit-down restaurants.