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The UWindsor researchers’ study was based on a 90-minute motivational nutrition education presentation developed by Food Network host Sandi Richard.The UWindsor researchers’ study was based on a 90-minute motivational nutrition education presentation developed by Food Network host Sandi Richard.

Teaching kids to cook benefits entire family, says UWindsor researchers

A new study by a team of UWindsor researchers shows that teaching young adolescents practical cooking skills leads to positive changes for the entire family.

The study, conducted by graduate students Sara Santarossa and Jillian Ciccone, under the direction of kinesiology researcher Sarah Woodruff, was based on Kinect-Ed, a 90-minute motivational nutrition education presentation developed by Food Network host Sandi Richard.

 Kinect-Ed was created by Richard to encourage youngsters in grades six to eight to help with meal preparation and improve the frequency of family dinners. Information is provided in interactive school demonstrations that explain how consuming excess fat, sugar and salt can affect the body.

The UWindsor paper, An evaluation of the Kinect-Ed presentation, a motivating nutrition and cooking intervention for young adolescents in grades 6–8, was published recently in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.  

“This research builds on past studies that suggest that an increase in the frequency of family meals has been associated with better grades, better self-esteem and mental health and a lower likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours such as smoking and drinking,” says Santarossa, the study’s  lead author.

 “The results of our study show that introducing the Kinect-Ed program will create positive benefits, including improving the frequency of family dinners and food preparation, improving confidence in cooking, and improving food preparation techniques.”

She says an increase in family meals during adolescence is also commonly associated with healthy eating and positive eating habits into young adulthood. 

As an added bonus for parents, encouraging young adolescents to help prepare meals and get involved in the kitchen can reduce their own time in meal prep, allowing parents more time for frequent family dinners. She says promoting family meals is a relatively easy and cost-effective health promotion endeavour that may lead to healthier, happier children.

Visit the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism website to read the full study.

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