Kids Who Cook Eat Healthier Fare

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • You are struggling to get your kids to eat healthier foods, and they are shunning fruits, vegetables, beans and fish and pretty much anything you consider a quality nutritious choice.  Instead of tearing your hair out, or growing gray prematurely and requiring Clairol way too soon – consider some recent research that suggests that kids who participate in food preparation, tend to eat healthier food.


    To me it’s a no brainer.  The supermarket is a place where you can have endless discussions about where foods come from, what they look like before processing doctors them up, colors, shapes, weights and portion sizes.  Those interactions involve math, science art and even language learning opportunities.  You can also have loads of taste tests, which makes trying a food, much more fun.  Once you come home, you can cut, peel, wash, season and again, have food lessons that are more likely to encourage your kids to taste foods, as they help prepare them.  Allowing them to don a chef’s apron and actually help you cook has been shown in recent studies to be a surefire way to engage them in eating healthier foods.  The research out of University of Alberta involved a survey of students in 151 schools throughout Alberta, that investigated kids’ experiences with cooking, and its impact on food choices.

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    In general, kids showed a preference of fruits over vegetables, but kids who cooked showed a greater appreciation for both food groups.  About one third of the kids helped out with at least one meal prep daily, one third helped with meal preparation one to three times per week, and one quarter of those surveyed helped with one meal a month.  About 12% of the kids never helped.  Most importantly, kids who did meal prep and cooking were much more “confident” about making healthier choices.  Certainly younger individuals seem to be more readily able to get the message about healthy food and its impact on their body and their health, from hands on experiences.  We can therefore assume that an in-school nutrition course that includes shopping, food preparation and cooking, could easily help kids nail their daily target intake of fruits, vegetables and quality proteins and grains AND help them to bring the message home to the family.  This has equal value in elementary school age kids, as well as in high schools where athletic and academic performance can depend on healthy eating.


    In addition to contributing columns and blogs here at HealthCentral, I contribute content to HealthCorps, the movement developed by Dr. and Mrs. Oz that fights obesity by placing mentors called coordinators in public high schools across the nation, teaching a curriculum that includes nutrition lessons and cooking classes.  The students, many of whom would otherwise never be exposed to healthy eating practices and the tools needed to engae in healthy food preparation, learn valuable information that they can apply to themselves and that can also be take home messages.  Research like this study in Canada serves to emphasize the need for programs like HealthCorps and the positive impact of involving kids in cooking.  Make healthy food a school affair!!


Published On: July 05, 2012