Cooking and Food Choices
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Every mom wants her kids to eat a nutritious diet, but getting children to ask for broccoli or bananas instead of corn chips and cookies isn’t always easy. If you’re trying to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies, taking a hands-on approach might be your best bet. The results of a recent study published in Public Health Nutrition* showed that when kids were involved in meal preparation, they ate more fruits and vegetables than kids who shied away from the kitchen.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada surveyed fifth graders in 151 schools to learn more about their experiences with meal preparation and their food choices, and then they crunched the numbers to see if there was any link between the two.
Nearly a third of the children surveyed reported helping out with meal prep at least once a day, and another one-third said they helped one to three times a week. A quarter of the children helped out in the kitchen once a month, and 12.4 per cent avoided the kitchen completely.
The researchers found that in general, the children preferred fruits to veggies, but the kids who helped with cooking showed a greater preference for both. Vegetable preference was also 10 percent higher among children who were involved in meal preparation. The scientists found that kids who cooked were more knowledgeable about the importance of making healthier food choices.
Although the survey involved only fifth graders, it’s likely that the benefits of being involved in meal preparation extend to children of any age. Bringing your child into the kitchen can be a fun and rewarding experience for both of you. While your child is learning a little about nutrition, the math of measuring, and the ins and outs of meal preparation, he’s also making warm and wonderful memories with his mother. Both the cooking skills and the memories will contribute to a lifetime of good health and happiness.
*Yen Li Chu, Anna Farmer, Christina Fung, Stefan Kuhle, Kate E Storey, Paul J Veugelers. Involvement in home meal preparation is associated with food preference and self-efficacy among Canadian children. Public Health Nutrition, 2012