BACKGROUND Between 1999-2016, the sharpest rise childhood obesity occurred in children aged 2-5 (NHANES). With 64% of U.S. children aged 3 to 5 years being cared for weekly in non-parental care arrangements, such as child care centers, family child care homes, pre-kindergarten, and Head Start classrooms, these programs are potentially prime venues for introducing ideas about healthy eating to children for parents to continue at home. This strategy is particularly vital given the worsening health indices of young children. METHODS “Doctor Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure,” is an interactive curriculum written by a pediatrician and Pediatric Feeding Specialist (SLP) designed to introduce preschoolers to simple culinary skills. These skills are employed while children prepare nutritious recipes that were “child-tested” providing them with a sensory and developmental experience with nutritious whole foods. Nutrition information is woven into these experiences using playful cartoon characters. Since inception, the number of schools (Head Start, etc), has grown from 8 schools to 20 (8 to 39 classrooms), encompassing preschools and daycares across a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and inclusive of children with special needs. Each year teachers are provided a face-to-face training on use of the curriculum and are given materials with helpful ideas on how to engage preschoolers in a healthy diet. Parents are informed of key program concepts using a Parent Manual, monthly recipes, feedback sheets, and electronic newsletters with tips on how to raise healthy eaters. Parents completed a survey of feeding attitudes and behaviors that included the Fussiness and Enjoyment of Food subscales of the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (Wardle et al., 2001). The data from each student was collected from parents in the first month of the 2016-17 academic year and again in the last month after a total of 9 lessons were completed. RESULTS At baseline, 377 parents completed the baseline survey. At follow-up, approximately half of participants (n=163) were willing to complete post-intervention surveys (77% white; 6% black; 3% Hispanic; 3% Asian; 11% multiple races). Parents reported increased appreciation of the importance of involving their children in meal preparation (p < .05), and described an increase in their child’s enjoyment of food (p < .10). We present change scores and associated confidence intervals associated with parent feeding behaviors and parents’ perception of their child’s fussiness and enjoyment of food as a result of intervention participation. DISCUSSION This pragmatic intervention has had an 387% increase in uptake since inception. Getting children more involved in meal preparation may increase their enjoyment of healthy foods by helping children to acquire skills and sensory experiences that increase the palatability and visual appeal of whole foods. Future research should explore the downstream effects of children’s culinary involvement on healthy eating behaviors and weight regulation.
Getting Children Involved in Cooking: Results from a Preschool Nutrition Curriculum
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Nimali E. Fernando, Nancy Zucker, Melanie Potock, Stephanie Ng; Getting Children Involved in Cooking: Results from a Preschool Nutrition Curriculum. Pediatrics August 2019; 144 (2_MeetingAbstract): 705. 10.1542/peds.144.2MA8.705
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