More than 36% of American children eat fruits and vegetables less than once a day — an unimpressive statistic given that the recommendation is about four cups daily. How can you encourage your children to add more nutritious color to their plates? Just get them involved in the kitchen, suggests a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
For the study, chef-led cooking classes were offered to students in 17 elementary and middle schools in Chicago. For ten weeks students attended two-hour weekly classes that included a nutrition lesson, hands-on cooking time and a group meal.
Before and after the course, students completed surveys to assess their nutrition knowledge and dietary habits. As anticipated, participation in the course increased both fruit and vegetable consumption (not by much, but any amount helps). Scores for nutrition knowledge also went up, as did confidence in the kitchen.
Not everyone has access to chef-led cooking classes and that’s okay—just getting your child involved in your own kitchen at home will offer valuable experience. Recruit your child to help with menu planning and grocery shopping, allow children to select their own fruits and vegetables, assign age-appropriate tasks like assembling a salad or slicing fruit, and take the time to sit down and enjoy a family meal. If there are cooking classes in your community, sign your child up or go as a family! The more children learn about and interact with healthful foods the more excited and willing they’ll be to eat them. Remember, children learn by example, so increasing your own produce consumption can make a big impact too.
Read how Dole’s Chef Mark Allison involves his three boys in their kitchen at home!