Getting kids to eat veggies is a struggle almost all parents face. Moms, dads and other caregivers often engage in all sorts of games and trickery with their kids to get some vegetables down their little throats. There may be an easier and more fun way. Kids might be more willing to eat veggies if they take part in growing them, according to a newly published study.
Many children never eat any vegetables, unless you count French fries. This is concerning not only because eating habits are formed early in life, but also because the lack of good nutrition in childhood may put kids on the road to poor nutrition for the rest of their lives, increasing their risk of developing chronic diseases when they become adults.
Trying to find ways to increase vegetable consumption among school-age children, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin helped 16 elementary schools plant vegetable gardens. The also held classes for students and parents about nutrition and cooking.
It isn’t necessary to till up your yard to grow a few vegetables. It isn’t even necessary to have a yard. Most can be planted in containers.
Over 3,000 students in the third through fifth grades were included in the year-long program. They gardened and learned about nutrition and cooking. The authors report that the children ate a half serving more vegetables per day compared to before they began the program. While the results aren’t earth-shattering, they are encouraging.
“A lot of the families in these schools live with food insecurity. They live in food deserts and face a higher risk of childhood obesity and related health issues,” said Jaimie Davis of UT Austin, in a statement.
“Teaching kids where their food comes from, how to grow it, how to prepare it — that's key to changing eating behaviors over the long term.”
The students’ weight, body mass index and blood pressure were also recorded during the study, but no significant changes in those health measures were noticed, but such changes can take longer to manifest themselves, according to Davis.
Your local Cooperative Extension Service agent can guide you with the information you need to help your kids plant and care for a few vegetable plants. It could be just what they need to ignite their curiosity and lead them to try new foods.
The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.