It’s a familiar scene. Your dusty-jeaned, defiant four-year-old sits alone at the kitchen table, having his nightly end-of-meal staring contest with a plateful of peas and carrots. If only the little guy was as interested in eating his vegetables as he was in digging the dirt, you think.
According to a study that researched ways of increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables by school-age children, digging in the dirt might just be the answer.
As parents become increasingly aware of the benefits of adding more fresh fruits and vegetables in their child’s diet, the study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests one answer to that age-old mystery of how to actually get little Johnny to eat those peas and carrots might lie in getting him to play in a specific patch of dirt in your backyard – the family garden.
In the 12-week pilot study, researchers had 4th to 6th grade children participate in garden-based activities at their YMCA Summer Camp.
When asked if they would like to participate in the next study, more than 80% said they would because it was “fun.”
The findings at the end of the study were compelling. The study found the new young gardeners:
- Ate more fruits and vegetables than they ever had before;
- Liked a broader variety of vegetables; and
- Increased how often they asked their parents for fruit and vegetables.
The researchers concluded that the “experiential learning experience” was a strong indicator that the children were more likely to adopt long-term habits of eating more fruits and vegetables.
Finally, researchers pointed to a key statistic in the success of the study. When asked if they would like to participate in the next study, more than 80 percent said they would because it was “fun.”