It’s a well-known uphill battle to convince kids to eat their vegetables. However, recent studies show that school gardens, nutrition, and cooking programs can increase students’ consumption of vegetables.
This study continues a previous assessment of a garden, nutrition, and culinary program in after-school care. Children in the after-school care study saw their body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and vegetable consumption all improve over the course of 12 weeks due to the rigorous training they received.
To reach more students, researchers wondered if the program would be as effective if it were integrated into the school curriculum and taught during class time over the course of a complete school year.
Since children from low-income Hispanic households eat the fewest fruits and vegetables of any U.S. children’s demographic, this initiative was also targeted at schools with large proportions of these students.
Results of the Research
In the three-year trial, eight intervention schools engaged in the gardening program for one school year each. The initiative was only implemented in two of the 16 schools.
Students in grades three through five had 18 one-on-one sessions with a specialist teacher over the academic year. Courses this year have focused on the following areas of study:
- Preparing fresh fruits and vegetables in a way that is good for you.
- Making healthful meal selections while traveling.
- Drinking fruit and vegetable juices that are low in sugar and eating food that is produced in the area.
- Fresher produce is healthier.
- The best way to maintain a healthy diet is when fresh produce is hard to come by.
- Service to others and food equality.
As part of the initiative, the intervention schools established school gardens. In the specialized lessons, it was used to give the kids a taste of what it’s like to cultivate their own food.
The intervention schools held parent information nights to inform and engage parents, although attendance was poor. Families without transportation couldn’t attend. Our research indicates that many families only have access to a single vehicle, making it difficult for their children to travel to school without taking the bus.
The program’s results showed that children’s consumption of vegetables increased dramatically over the course of the year. The BMI, blood pressure, and waist circumference didn’t change, and neither did eating fruit or drinking high-sugar drinks.
Vegetables and the Way They Benefit Your Health
There was no short-term impact on childhood obesity rates from this intervention, but registered dietitian Kerry Jones thinks the benefits of increased fruit and vegetable intake are still considerable. Since fresh fruit and vegetables are packed with beneficial nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, eating them regularly can positively affect health.
Increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables children eat has obvious health benefits, but it may also make mealtimes less stressful. Children who consume a variety of vegetables are less likely to be picky eaters, according to studies.
Most of a child’s knowledge of nutrition originates in the kitchen with their own family. To this end, parental influence on their children’s eating habits cannot be overstated. When presented with a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere, children are more inclined to try new foods.
Children’s eating habits can be influenced by the variety and quality of foods they are presented with from an early age. People who reside in “food deserts,” defined as geographically isolating areas or places where fresh food is either prohibitively expensive or otherwise unavailable, may have a more limited opportunity to experience a wide range of foods due to their location.
This is why it’s important to teach kids how to plant at home or school. As a potent tool in getting kids to eat more vegetables, learning how to cultivate their own food is a great strategy.
Encourage Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies!
Even without a school garden, there are still ways to boost students’ contact with veggies and, with any luck, encourage them to eat more of them.
In some cases, parents may be able to convince their kids to try new veggies without immediately feeding them. Attempts to make people eat their vegetables against their will may backfire. It’s crucial that you find ways to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies.
Be There to Back Up Their Schoolwork.
Reinforcing what kids learn in class is another approach to improving fruit and vegetable consumption. It’s crucial to back and encourage children’s interest in learning about fruits and vegetables in the classroom. Look through any assignments kids bring home and make sure you are keeping up with what they are learning in class.
Make a Goals Poster or Visual Manifesto.
Select a new type of produce to try out each time you go grocery shopping. Every time a kid tries something new, they can add an illustration of it to a wall poster. More experimentation with hues is always a good thing.
Test their ability to produce enough different colored vegetables to fill a rainbow poster. Alternatively, students might try out a new vegetable every day of the week and fill in an alphabet chart.
Make your own garden and eat your own vegetables.
This need not be on a massive scale. Children’s interest in and consumption of healthy meals can be increased by displaying a small planter box or pot on a sunny terrace or within the home.
Many parents struggle to provide their children with nutritionally diverse meals. Having your kids feel heard and valued is a byproduct of including them in decision-making. When parents and children learn and adapt together, it can be less intimidating for youngsters.