The key to a tasty meal is in your own hands: preparing food yourself makes it taste better, new research from the University of Cologne found.
In the study, people who made their own healthy shakes rated them tastier than the same shakes prepared by others.
That might be because preparing food takes work. And people need to justify the amount of effort they put into it, which can positively impact taste perception, says study author Dr Simone Dohle.
The study found this taste boost only held true with healthy shakes: there was no difference in ratings between unhealthy shakes.
Why? Home cooking also increases something called health salience, says Dohle. When you make a meal yourself, you become aware of all the ingredients that go into it.
If you’re trying to eat healthily – and you see only nutritional stuff comprising your recipe list – that’ll make you like your food more, she says. If it contains unhealthy ingredients, you’ll like it less.
While this current study only included women, Dohle said it’s likely the results would apply to men too – especially since her previous research in 2014 with both sexes showed a similar result.
So if you’re trying to eat healthier but your grab-and-go options are leaving you unsatisfied, you might want to take on the prep yourself. That way, you won’t be tempted to pick up a tasty yet kilojoule-packed option.
And the good news is, you don’t need to be a star chef to reap the benefits: minimal food prep – as seen with the shake in the study, where the participants simply measured ingredients, blended them and poured the final product – with healthy foods at home would likely increase your fondness for them, says Dohle.
Looking to eat more healthily? Try these 9 Foods That Will Fill You Up Without Filling You Out