A study published in the journal Appetite shows that children who help to prepare their own meals may eat more vegetables than those who are not involved in cooking. The research, carried out by the Nestlé Research Center, compared what children chose to eat when they helped cook their own meal with what they consumed when they did not.
Forty-seven parents, accompanied by a son or daughter ages 6–10, were asked to prepare a meal made of various elements, including breaded chicken, salad, cauliflower, and pasta. Half the children in the experiment got involved in making the meal—putting together the salad and helping their parents coat the chicken pieces—while the other children played as their mother or father prepared the meal alone.
The researchers found that the children who cooked alongside a parent ate almost 76% more salad and 27% more chicken as well as consuming 25% more calories overall. The study also showed that helping to prepare a meal improved how children felt about themselves, with those who cooked feeling more positive emotions and pride.
The research showed that in particular the amount of salad consumed increased, perhaps, the scientists suggest, because it was easier for children to independently choose its different elements.