Television programs featuring healthy foods can be a key ingredient in leading kids to make healthier food choices now and into adulthood.
A new study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands found kids who watched a child-oriented cooking show featuring healthy food were 2.7 times more likely to make a healthy food choice than those who watched a different episode of the same show featuring unhealthy food.
Researchers asked 125 10- to 12-year-olds at five schools in the Netherlands to watch 10 minutes of a Dutch public television cooking program designed for children, and then offered them a snack as a reward for participating. Children who watched the healthy program were far more likely to choose one of the healthy snack options -- an apple or a few pieces of cucumber -- than one of the unhealthy options -- a handful of chips or a handful of salted mini-pretzels.
Prior research has found kids are more likely to eat healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, if they were involved in preparing the dish, but modern reliance on ready-prepared foods and a lack of modeling by parents in preparing fresh foods have led to a drop in cooking skills among kids.
This study indicates the visual prominence of healthier options in both food choice and portion size on TV cooking programs leads young viewers to crave those healthier choices then act on those cravings.
Children who don't like new foods are less likely to show a stronger desire for healthier choices after watching a TV program featuring healthier foods than a child who does enjoy trying new foods.
As they grow older, though, they start to feel more responsible for their eating habits and can fall back on information they learned as children. Researchers believe this may indicate watching programs with healthier options can still have a positive impact on children's behavior, even if it is delayed by age.
Poor dietary habits during childhood and adolescence have multiple negative effects on several health indicators, including achievement and maintenance of healthy weights, growth and development patterns and dental health.
Source: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, December 2019.
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