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Cooking skills blog 3: research on involving children in cooking

In this fortnight’s blog, I’ll look at two presentations from the COOK and Health Scientific Symposium held at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian that my colleague Jacqui attended last November. Both suggested that involving children in hands-on cooking programmes can have a positive impact on their diet (at least in the short-term) and this was shown for programmes that were planned and delivered very differently to each other. You can access the research articles from the presentations online, free of change.

Leslie Cunninghame-Sabo reported on research on a Cooking with Kids programme in the USA. The programme included three hands-on cooking and three fruit and vegetable tasting sessions run for children in a range of schools. The research found that the children involved in the programme were more likely to increase their preference to eat fruit and vegetables and have a more positive attitude to cooking compared with the children who did not take part.

Martin Caracher’s presentation included information about a systematic review of studies of practical cooking skills initiatives in primary schools. The reviewers looked at four studies (three USA based and one from Spain). Each school had run lessons ranging from seven classes to those run over a whole school year. All included practical hands-on cooking sessions.

Overall, the review showed evidence of an association between teaching cooking skills and improved nutrition knowledge, changing food preferences, increased confidence in cooking skills and healthier eating habits in children. However, as none of the studies had carried out longer-term follow up of the children, the reviewers were unable to conclude whether these improvements would continue in the longer term.

The reviewers also suggested that cooking skills:

  • are an important component in ensuring that young people can achieve healthy eating practices, as information about nutrition alone is not enough to instigate change;
  • should be considered an essential life skill in its own right, and not just as a tool for promoting better nutrition; and:
  • are unlikely to be enough on their own to promote better nutrition , as other wider issues (such as access to affordable healthy foods) also need to be addressed.

In the next blog, I’ll begin to discuss some of the challenges and issues that our cooking skills study group have had to think about.

Kim Newstead

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