Friday, March 6, 2009

Encourage children to eat more vegetables by growing your own

Preschool children in rural areas eat more fruits and vegetables when the produce is homegrown.

"It was a simple, clear finding," said Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., director of Saint Louis University's Obesity Prevention Center and a study author. "Whether a food is homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a 'positive food environment.'"

Researchers interviewed about 1,600 parents of preschool-aged children who live in the countryside. They found that preschool children who were almost always served homegrown fruits and vegetables were more than twice as likely to eat five servings a day than those who rarely or never ate homegrown produce.

The UK government recommends a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Children who grow up eating fresh-from-the-garden produce also prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods, the parents told researchers.

The study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found the garden-fed children were more likely to see their parents eating fruits and vegetables.

A greater variety of fruits and vegetables -- more tomatoes, cantaloupe, broccoli, beans and carrots -- also were available in the homes of families who nearly always had homegrown produce.

The implications of the research are important because they point to a simple way of getting kids to eat more healthily, Haire-Joshu said. Plant a garden or encourage your school to do so.

For more ideas on how to encourage your children to eat more fruit and vegetables, come along to a Cooking for Health course on Healthy Cooking for Your Children, in Somerset, UK.

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