Eat Your Vegetables! Studies from Stanford University

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Aug 8, 2013 No Comments ›› Melissa Graham

In a country where more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, initiatives like Purple Asparagus’ Delicious, Nutritious Adventures are vital in making a change. Similar to our program, a recent study performed by Stanford scholars found that teaching children the importance of healthy foods and why their bodies need a variety of different foods compels kids to voluntarily eat more vegetables.

In the study, Stanford researchers created five storybooks that emphasized “key concepts about nutrition, including the importance of variety, how digestion works, the different food groups, characteristics of nutrients, and how nutrients help the body function” (Stanford news). One of the five books was read to one preschool classroom each week during snack time for about three months, while two other classrooms had normal snack time without the educational materials.

Later on, the 4-5 year old children were asked questions about “food, nutrition, and bodily functions to assess their grasp of the concepts outlined in the books” (Stanford news). Researchers found that the children who had heard the nutrition storybooks not only increased their knowledge of digestion and the role different nutrients play, but also more than doubled their vegetable intake during snack time after the intervention.

The methods used in the study are extremely similar to those used in Purple Asparagus’ Delicious, Nutritious Adventures. When we enter classrooms in the Chicagoland area, we educate children about different food groups such as fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and dairy. We talk about where the foods come from, such as trees or the ground, and we discuss with great detail how to describe the taste, texture, and feel of the food. Through our program, our goal is to increase the overall intake of healthy food, and to increase the curiosity for knowledge about healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.

While the Stanford study was inconclusive as to whether or not the results would transfer to other mealtimes or to how long they would last, an evaluation of our program shows lasting results. A follow up parent survey conducted by The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) found that 37 out of 75 parents reported cooking at least one of our recipes at home, and most reported that they have cooked at least four to five of our recipes.

Based on the Stanford study and results from an evaluation of our program, we have found that children have a natural inquisitiveness and want to understand how things work. When we are able to educate about healthy foods, it opens the gate for children to ask questions and understand just what we mean by “nutritious” or “healthy”. While the Stanford study was a short-term intervention, Delicious Nutritious Adventures maintain a consistent monthly program to continuously educate and bring about curiosity and adventurous healthy eating.

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