Get Kids Cooking And They Will Make Healthier Choices
June 28, 2012

Get Kids Cooking And They Will Make Healthier Choices

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Want to stop the meal-time temper tantrums from your kids when trying to feed them healthier food choices? All you have to do, according to researchers from the University of Alberta, is give them an apron.

An area wide survey of 5th grade students in Alberta suggests the best way to get your child to eat healthier foods and actually enjoy them, is to have them help with making the meals.

“Kids who like fruits and vegetables more tend to eat them more frequently and have better diets,” said lead author Yen Li Chu, a post-doctoral fellow in the School of Public Health. “These data show that encouraging kids to get involved in meal preparation could be an effective health promotion strategy for schools and parents.”

Published in May by Public Health Nutrition in an early online release, the study involved a survey of students in 151 schools across Alberta to learn about kids´ experiences with cooking and making food choices.

Nearly one-third of children reported helping with meal prep at least once a day; another one-third said they helped one to three times a week. A quarter of children helped once a month and 12.4 percent avoided the kitchen completely.

Reportedly, children preferred fruits to veggies, but children who helped with cooking showed a larger desire for both. Vegetable desire was also 10 percent higher among children who helped cook.

The data also showed that kids who did meal prep and cooking were more positive about the importance of making good food choices.

Paul Veugelers, co-author and Canada Research Chair in Population Health at the U of A, said getting children to eat healthier food promotes bone and muscle development, learning and self-esteem.

“Good food is important for us. It keeps weight gain away–and more important than that, it keeps chronic disease away,” Veugelers said. “The overarching objective of our work is to lower the burden of chronic disease in our society. A healthy diet is right at the top.”

Chu said the results emphasize the value of getting kids interested in mealtime activities in the home, but added the schools could get involved, too.

“You can go into schools and have cooking classes and cooking clubs to help them boost their fruit and vegetable intake and make healthier choices,” she said.

Though this survey dealt only with 5th graders, the lessons are equally applicable to older youth, including post-secondary students, added Veugelers.

“For many of them, it may be the first time they leave home, the first time in their lives they´re responsible for their own diets,” he said. “There are lessons here for them too, to form groups and take turns cooking, and pay attention to good meal preparation.”