Cooking skills influence the dietary choices of young Indians living in the UK and India: A qualitative study

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation



British Indians comprise around 1.4 million of the UK’s population, making them the largest ethnic minority in the UK1. They are reported to have a significantly high prevalence of central obesity and non-communicable disease, and evidence shows that acculturation-induced unhealthy changes in the dietary choices of immigrant populations profoundly impact their health2. It is also established that lifetime eating habits developed at a young age become more difficult to reverse as age progresses2,3. Therefore, the early detection and intervention of dietary practices has the potential to create positive health outcomes in the Indian population.
Migrant health remains an under-researched area4. There is limited evidence on the food choices and eating practices of Indian minority ethnic populations due to difficulties in collecting information5. Reasons for this are likely to be lack of engagement as well as cultural and language barriers5. These indications emphasise the need for further studies of the dietary changes of immigrant populations and a critical comparison with the dietary choices of host populations to determine the factors affecting different health outcomes2. Therefore, this research is designed to explore and compare the dietary choices and influencing factors in Indian immigrants in the UK and natives in the country of origin, India.
One-to-one semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted for qualitative data collection. Thirty-five respondents were selected using purposive sampling. Eighteen participants in the UK and seventeen in India were recruited from various religious backgrounds (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Christian) and demographic groups (gender and age). Interviews were audio recorded, translated into English (where necessary) and transcribed verbatim. A thematic analysis method was used to analyse qualitative data following Braun and Clark’s (2006) six-step guideline6. The transcripts were coded and arranged in themes and subthemes with the help of the NVivo software package.
Several themes were identified, such as age, time constraints, taste preferences, convenience, cooking skills, increased availability of ready to eat food, and the influence of globalisation. Age emerged as a major determinant of food choices in Indians living in both countries. Younger generations of Indians in both countries have shown more inclination towards consuming ready-made convenience foods due to the lack of cooking skills and taste preferences.
A young male immigrant student acknowledged –
I’ve never learnt to cook when I was growing up in India, which is normally the way in India….. when I used to live in catered accommodation, so I would eat there. If not, I would eat out (16a).

A similar kind of response was received from a young female participant in India –
I cook but not much and it is not tasty. Only I can eat it ...
The outside food is very good compared to our food. If I cook fried rice and if I order, both are very different in taste and look-wise. Everything is very different. I love to eat outside food, but I know it is not healthy for me (7b).

A second-generation immigrant (UK born) mother confirmed –

I won’t say the girls are as enthusiastic, and they don’t try and engage in cooking……. The aspiration is different now because they aspire to education …. so they are not there to learn these culinary skills. ….My son doesn’t cook. His cooking is literally take something in the grill and cook itself (10a).
The findings demonstrate that dietary changes are taking place in both countries. Dietary choices for both groups of participants are influenced by a number of inter-related factors including globalisation. Interestingly, age continued to have a major influence on dietary choices in both contexts. Young Indians are increasingly dependent on pre-cooked, ready-made food due to their limitations in cooking skills. These results indicate a need to plan intervention strategies and health promotion and cooking programmes targeting young Indians living in the UK and India.

1- 2018. Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 2018. Plus Company Updates. Sep 4,.
2- GILBERT, P. A. and KHOKHAR, S., 2008. Changing dietary habits of ethnic groups in Europe and implications for health. Nutrition Reviews. 66 (4), pp. 203-215.
3- Gadgil, M.D, Anderson, C.A.M, Kandula, N.R, and Kanaya, A.M, 2014. Dietary Patterns in Asian Indians in the United States: An Analysis of the Metabolic Syndrome and Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 114 (2), pp. 238-243.
4- AGYEMANG, C., 2019. Comfy zone hypotheses in migrant health research: time for a paradigm shift. Public Health. 172, pp. 108-115.
5- CHOWBEY, P. and HARROP, D., 2016. Healthy eating in UK minority ethnic households: influences and way forward. Race Equality Foundation.
6- BRAUN, V. and CLARKE, V., 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 3 (2), pp. 77-101.

Period19 Jul 202123 Jul 2021
Event titleInternational Festival of Public Health (9th festival)
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational