Convincing kids to eat healthy can sometimes be an uphill battle. If you’ve tried every trick in the recipe book already and still struggle, the secret ingredient might be in the most unlikely place: your Netflix queue.
Recent Dutch research suggests a link between watching healthy cooking shows and craving healthy food. Carried out by researchers at Tilburg University and Radboud University, Netherlands, the new study recruited 125 children aged 10 to 12 years old from five schools and asked them to watch 10 minutes of a Dutch television cooking show designed for children, which featured either healthy or unhealthy food.
After watching the program, the kids were offered a choice of either a healthy snack, such as an apple or pieces of cucumber, or an unhealthy snack such as chips or salted pretzels, as a reward for participating in the study.
The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, showed that children who watched an episode of the show which featured healthy food were 2.7 times more likely to then choose a healthy food as a snack, compared to those who watched a different episode of the show featuring unhealthy food.
“The findings from this study indicate cooking programs can be a promising tool for promoting positive changes in children’s food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors,” said lead author Frans Folkvord, Ph.D.
Picky eaters won’t be swayed
Dr. Folkvord and the team also added that the effect of exposure to healthy foods on children, such as through watching TV shows, appears to be strongly influenced by their personality traits. For example, they explain that children who don’t like new foods are less likely to want healthy foods after watching a TV program featuring them than a child who does enjoy trying new foods.
However, as kids grow older they start to feel more responsible for their own food choices, and information they learned as children may now influence their eating habits. Therefore, the researchers say that watching programs with healthier options can still have a positive impact on children’s behavior, even if the effect is not seen immediately.
More food and recipe tips for kids! Story continues below.
“The likelihood of consuming fruits and vegetables among youth and adults is strongly related to knowing how to prepare most fruits and vegetables. Increased cooking skills among children can positively influence their consumption of fruit and vegetables in a manner that will persist into adulthood,” Dr. Folkvord added.
Cooking shows families love
Kids give hands-on lessons in this Youtube series, hosted by chef Ann Butler. She uses the tutorials as teaching opportunities for the kids, often engaging in conversations with them that explain what certain ingredients are and why they’re mixed together. Butler started the project to empower kids to have a role in the meals they eat, as it’ll improve their relationship with food.
“The Big Family Cooking Showdown”
This British show pits families against each other in friendly competition. Most episodes have contestants make healthy family meals with restrictions that real-life families would deal with; cooking using just one pot or whipping up a dinner that uses every part of a fish are some of the challenges they face.
Want to encourage baking in the family? Rosanna Pasino hosts one of Youtube’s biggest baking channels, where she posts a variety of food-related videos that appeal to all ages. Although the sugar content in her videos may disqualify them from healthy eating territory, her pastry recipes are easy enough for everyone to follow along with for pastries that’ll delight as special treats.
With files from Al Donato
Also on HuffPost: