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Home Cooking Influences Children's Food Choices

Update Date: Jul 29, 2014 06:28 PM EDT

Children's food choices can be influenced by the way their parents prepare meals, according to a new study.

Researchers found that the amount of time parents spend cooking at home can significantly influence what children choose to eat away from home.

"In general, research shows that children tend to eat inadequate amounts of nutrient-rich foods while eating large amounts of sugary and fatty foods," researcher said in a news release. "It's encouraging to see that parents can possibly affect the quality of their children's food choices outside the home by spending more time cooking."

The study revealed that kids whose parents reported spending more time cooking at home independently chose to eat meals that were lower in energy density than those whose parents reported spending less time on food preparation.

The latest study involved 61 children aged four to six and their parents. Each family was asked to visit the laboratory twice. In the lab, children were asked to taste and rate their liking of a variety of foods and were then given unlimited access to these foods without guidance or interference.

Researchers said that children were allowed to eat as much as they wanted to. The foods that children were presented with included chicken nuggets, chocolate chip cookies, grapes and broccoli. Parents were also asked to complete questionnaires about their home environment.

The study also found that parental home food preparation influence children's food intake patterns, even outside of the house.

"Even after controlling for family income and whether or not children had a parent at home full time, we found that children whose parents spend more time cooking make better choices," Shehan added.

"Our food preferences develop early in life, so getting young children to eat nutritious foods can help them stay healthy in the long run," Shehan concluded.

The findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB)

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