Does Letting Children Watch Cooking Shows Help Them Eat Better?

Julia Child's pioneering television cooking show "The French Chef," debuted in 1963. (Image: YouTube screen grab)

Do your small children enjoy watching cooking shows with you on TV? Mine did. So did it have any impact on them as they grew into teenagers and, in my daughter’s case, a young adult?

According to a new study in the “Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior,” the answer is apparently yes. According the study’s lead author, Frans Folkvord, who teaches at the School of Humanities and Digital Science at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, parents who expose their children to cooking programs develop more healthful eating habits. “If you promote healthy foods to children, it can be beneficial to improve their intake,” Folkvord is quoted as saying.

Here is how the study worked, according to CNN.

Researchers asked 125 children between the ages of 10 and 12 to watch 10 minutes of a Dutch TV show designed for children. Some watched a clip featuring healthy foods, while others watched a video featuring less healthy, energy-dense foods.

To ensure the children’s perception of the foods was how the authors intended, children in each groupwere asked to indicate on a 10-point scale how healthy they perceived the foods shown in the cooking program, ranging from zero (very unhealthy) to 10 (very healthy).

The healthy foods clip featured tomatoes, onions, brussels sprouts and other fruits and vegetables. The clip that centered on unhealthy foods showed hamburgers, French fries with mayonnaise and croissants.

The videos depicted contestants from Dutch schools battling each other in the kitchen by cooking dishes themselves, tasting it and having to answer questions about the ingredients they thought were needed to make them.

As a reward for participating in the study, the kids were offered a snack, which they could choose from a set of options.

In the healthy food group, more than 41% of children chose a healthy snack such as an apple or cucumber slices. In the unhealthy condition, 20% of children chose a healthy snack.

Among the recommended shows are “Good Eats,” “Kids Baking Championship,” and “America’s Test Kitchen.”