Mar. 23 -- FRIDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Young children who regularly eat homegrown fruits and veggies eat more than twice as much of those healthy foods than kids who seldom get fresh-from-the-garden produce on their plates, U.S. researchers report.
The study, by a team at the Saint Louis University Medical Center, involved interviews with about 1,600 parents of preschool-aged children in rural southeast Missouri.
The team found that children who grow up eating homegrown produce prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods.
"It was a simple, clear finding. Whether a food is homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a 'positive food environment,'" study author Debra Haire-Joshu, director of the university's Obesity Prevention Center, said in a prepared statement.
She and her colleagues found that garden-fed children were more likely to see their parents eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and that people in homes with gardens had access to greater variety of produce.
The findings suggest a simple way to get children to eat healthier -- parents should plant a garden or encourage their children's schools to do so, Haire-Joshu said.
"When children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet," she said. "Students at schools with gardens learn about math and science, and they also eat more fruits and vegetables. Kids eat healthier, and they know more about eating healthy. It's a winning and low-cost strategy to improve the nutrition of our children at a time when pediatric obesity is an epidemic problem."
The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The Nemours Foundation has more about children and healthy eating.
SOURCE: Saint Louis University Medical Center, news release, April 2007