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Cooking Shows Can Help Kids Eat Healthier — If They Watch the Right Ones

More cucumbers, fewer cookies. 

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Every parent wants their children to make healthy choices, especially when they aren’t around to help guide (or scold) them. When it comes to food, that means hoping they pick nutritional options in the lunchroom more often than not. According to a new study, you can help inspire them to do that by showing them certain cooking shows. 

The research recently published in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior came to this conclusion after observing 125 young participants (between 10 and 12 years old) from five different schools. The kids were split into three groups that were all shown 10-minute video clips: One featured cooking with healthy ingredients like fruits and veggies, another showed junk food like hamburgers and fries instead, and another that had nothing to do with food at all. Each of the clips also featured other kids of similar ages.

They were all told that the producers of the shows wanted their feedback and had them fill out a questionnaire asking what they liked or didn’t like about the clips. Basically, they weren’t aware that they were actually guinea pigs in a nutritional study (the researchers did get parental permission, though, don’t worry). After filling out their forms, they picked from four snacks as a “reward” for being so helpful. 

The children who watched healthier cooking segments were nearly three times more likely to choose one of the more nutritious options than either of the other groups. Can you imagine that many kids picking apples over cookies? It’s pretty dang impressive. On the other end of the spectrum, only 20 percent of the kids who watched less-healthy cooking shows chose a healthy snack.

“The findings from this study indicate that cooking programs can be a promising tool for promoting positive changes in children’s food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors, which is the most important target group for such educational cooking programs,” the researchers explain. 

It makes sense — how many times have you watched a cooking show and found yourself craving the dish the chefs were whipping up on the screen? You can try this technique with your own kids by tuning into shows like Hey Kids, Let’s Cook! on PBS, which has children between 6 and 14 years old learning a new recipe on a weekly basis. There are also endless options on YouTube.

Just remember to fast forward through any of the less healthy dishes that pop up to really keep the focus on deliciously nutritious options!

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