To Instill Healthy Eating Habits, Parents Should Let Their Children Watch Certain Cooking Shows, Study Finds

Students at Nettelhorst Elementary School, on lunch, dig into a salad bar in the school's lunchroom March 20, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. U.S.
Tim Boyle / Getty Images

A recent study has found that children who are allowed to watch certain cooking shows that promote healthy eating are more likely to make healthy food choices, reported CNN.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, took place at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and was led by assistant professor Frans Folkvord. Researchers asked 125 children between the ages of 10 and 12 to watch short clips of a television show.

Half the kids in the study were shown clips featuring healthy foods while the other half watched segments that included unhealthy foods. In the videos, Dutch children participated in cooking competitions and were asked to state the ingredients that were in each dish.

Healthy food clips included various types of fruits and vegetables, while the unhealthy clips featured foods such as hamburgers, french fries, and croissants. To ensure that the children were properly perceiving the foods as healthy or unhealthy, they were asked to rate the healthiness of the foods on a scale of zero to 10.

After the children watched the videos and answered the questionnaire, they were rewarded with a snack of their choosing. Just 20 percent of the children who watched the unhealthy clips chose a healthy snack, such as a fruit or vegetable, while 41 percent of the children who watched the healthy clips chose a healthy food.

The authors of the study concluded that cooking shows can affect how children perceive food, while also modeling positive behaviors around food, such as cooking with a partner and consuming healthy foods with proper portion sizes.

Folkvard weighed in on the results of the study.

“If you promote healthy foods to children, it can be beneficial to improve their intake. For parents, it’s important that they promote healthy foods during day time by different methods, and one of the methods is these cooking programs.”

The study’s results demonstrate cue reactivity theory, which is a type of learned response that is influenced by certain stimuli or cues. Food cues may trigger a craving for a particular food and lead to a person subsequently eating that food.

Previous studies have shown that many young people do not meet international dietary standards, which can affect their health and well-being as they age. By presenting children with models of healthy foods and behaviors from a young age, researchers believe that they will be primed for good health as adults.

According to The Inquisitr, health professionals have long advised individuals to adopt healthy lifestyle habits and eat a balanced diet, as opposed to dieting and other short-term solutions.