Young children who regularly eat homegrown produce consume more than twice as many fruits and vegetables than kids whom seldom eat garden-grown foods.
A team at the Saint Louis University Medical Center interviewed about 1,600 parents of preschool-aged children in Missouri and found that children who grew up eating homegrown produce prefered the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods.
Debra Haire-Joshu, director of the university's Obesity Prevention Center, explained, "It was a simple, clear finding. Whether a food is homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a 'positive food environment.'"
The team established that parents with gardens could provide access to a greater variety of produce. When children saw their parents eating fresh fruits and vegetables, they were more likely to develop a taste for the foods.
Researchers believe that parents should plant a garden or encourage their children’s schools to do so in order to promote healthy eating.
"When children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet," Haire-Joshu 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."