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Can cooking classes help curb childhood obesity?

Should healthy eating be incorporated into elementary school curriculum? A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows that having cooking classes alongside subjects such as math and science may promote healthier eating habits as well as curb the childhood obesity epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of obese children in the United States has more than doubled during the past three decades.

Researchers at Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition wanted to find out whether nutrition education had any positive effect on students. Using the Cooking with Kids program as a model, they interviewed 178 fourth graders to evaluate children's attitudes towards cooking and experiences at school and home following a series of cooking plus tasting or just tasting classes alone. According to a release:

Students and their teachers who participated in both types of experiential classes described positive experiences with curriculum integration into academic subjects, and those receiving cooking classes reported opportunities to enhance their social skills. The study also found that students in cooking plus tasting schools did not perceive cooking-related tasks at home as 'chores', unlike students who received just tasting classes or those who did not receive either type of class. And, in general, students' perspectives were that the curriculum strengthened their understanding of the content of school subjects.

Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD, says that integrating nutrition education into the classroom will teach kids to eat healthy foods at a young age, which will help them develop healthy eating patterns for life. "It documents the importance of including cooking in school curriculum as it is a practical mechanism to promote health, social and educational skills to better prepare students for adulthood."

Previously: Are lunches brought from home or purchased at school more nutritious?, How should pediatricians talk about obesity?, Children and obesity: What can parents do to help?, How to combat childhood obesity? Try everything, Study shows federal school lunch program doesn't make the grade and School nutrition standards come into the 21st century
Photo by Collin Parker

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