Gardening, Cooking Parties Double Kids' Veggie Consumption

TUESDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) — Kindergarteners may be more likely to eat vegetables if they’re enticed with things such as tasting parties, cooking classes, gardening and even Popeye cartoons.

That’s the finding of an eight-week study that monitored the fruit and vegetable consumption of 26 kindergarteners before and after they participated in a program that used multimedia, role models and play to promote healthy food consumption.

The research is described in the current issue of the journal Nutrition & Dietetics.

“We got the children planting vegetable seeds, taking part in fruit- and vegetable-tasting parties, cooking vegetable soup, and watching Popeye cartoons. We also sent letters to parents with tips on encouraging their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, and teachers sat with children at lunch to role model healthy eating,” lead researcher Professor Chutima Sirikulchayanonta, of Mahidol University in Bangkok, said in a journal news release.

After the program, the children’s vegetable intake doubled and the types of vegetables they ate increased from two to four. In addition, parents said their children talked about vegetables more often and were proud they had eaten them in their school lunch.

Among the other findings:

  • Children feel special when adults sit next to them and eat the same foods.
  • Involving children in food preparation helps them learn the names and colors of foods and helps develop their hand-eye coordination.

Previous research has shown that food habits and eating patterns learned in early childhood continue into later childhood and adulthood, Sirikulchayanonta said. This means that emphasizing healthy food choices at an early age can have a major impact on a person’s future health, she added.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips for healthy children and families.