Experts say our obsession with cooking shows and the rising popularity of food blogs means the media could be having a positive effect on our waistlines.

By Meagan Lawrence

New figures released by Technorati show food has become a leading category in the online lifestyle sector, proving more popular than fashion, travel and religion.

Although media has been targeted in the past for making us

fat and lazy, new statistics show society is increasingly using media to learn about healthy food and lifestyle habits.

Food Blogs

One of the most common ways people choose to engage with food through the media is with self-published blogs.

Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli says blogging satisfies our need to be social with each other and provides a way to share our accomplishments.

“I think some people are much more exhibitionist than others and blogging satisfies the need to show-off in a very positive way,” she says.

“Chances are you are going to find a genuinely interested audience somewhere in cyber space.”

Popular food blog Tastespotting

Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney Deborah Lupton says gastronomic knowledge has become highly regarded in society and blogs allow people to share their knowledge around the world.

“Sharing recipes and photos of meals eaten and cooked are ways of developing and strengthening social bonds between people,” she says.

“There is a high social status associated with knowing how to cook and eat well and people like to demonstrate that to others.”

Cooking Shows

While cooking shows were once left to the professionals, they are now a driving force in reality television, with shows like

Masterchef attracting millions of viewers every night.

Dr Bonfiglioli says many reality cooking shows provide audiences with a sensible combination of entertainment and education.

“My own theory is that a great de-skilling has occurred over the past few decades and many people have grown up with very few cooking skills, very little mentoring of their cooking in a family situation and too little practice at actually shopping and cooking,” she says.

“As well as being heart-warming and lacking in those humiliating and demoralising qualities of some other reality shows, cooking shows meet a real need in the Australian community.”

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Ms Lupton says the media is highly aware food has become a dominant social trend and is producing material to both satisfy and encourage the demand for it.

“The media have a major influence on the topics people think about and in providing information about these topics,” she says.

“If the media know there is a strong interest in food and cuisine among the general public, they will continue to publish recipes and stories about food.

“I would expect cooking shows, food blogs, and restaurant reviews in the mass media to continue to be popular.”

Dr Bonfiglioli says there is potential for media to have a greater impact on the way we engage with food and manage our health in the future.

“There is enormous potential for the media to have positive effects on our health and I think that it has already done so in many ways,” she says.

“I think we are going to see a greater emphasis on providing audiences with more basic skills that they need in things like nutrition, budgeting, shopping, cooking and presenting food.”