The question of how to promote healthy eating habits in children is relevant because most children do not meet the recommended vegetable intake. Involving children in food preparation could be an opportunity to develop healthy eating behaviors and to increase vegetable consumption. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of children's involvement in meal preparation on their food and vegetable intake. A between-subject experiment was conducted with 47 children aged 6 to 10 years. In condition 1 (n = 25), children prepared a lunch meal (pasta, breaded chicken, cauliflower, and salad) with the assistance of a parent. In condition 2 (n = 22), the meal was prepared by the parent alone. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to compare intake in the "child cooks" and "parent cooks" conditions. Children in the child cooks condition ate significantly more salad 41.7 g (76.1%), more chicken 21.8 g (27.0%), and more calories 84.6 kcal (24.4%) than children in the parent cooks condition. Between before cooking and directly after cooking the meal, children in the child cooks condition reported significantly increased feelings of valence (feeling positive) and dominance (feeling in control). This study confirms that involving children in meal preparation can increase vegetable intake. Because of the potential effect on energy intake, parents need to be made aware of appropriate portion sizes for their children. Taking this into account, encouraging parents to involve their children in the preparation of healthy and balanced meals could be a valuable intervention strategy to improve the diets and vegetable intake of children.
Keywords: Children; Cooking; Food intake; Meal preparation; Vegetable intake.
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