With spring long since sprung and summer pretty much here, most folks are well into gardening season. If you haven’t already begun, it’s not too late to start, especially considering that the value of growing your own veggies goes well beyond grocery store savings, especially if you have kids.
A new report from the International Journal of Environmental and Public Health examined whether a school-based gardening program could effectively improve children’s eating habits. For the study – which involved about 200 elementary school children in South Korea – kids learned about the benefits of eating vegetables while also enjoying hands-on gardening experience and cooking lessons using the vegetables they had grown.
The findings were promising.
Gardening knowledge, nutrition knowledge, vegetable preference, and vegetable consumption were significantly increased, and food neophobia [refusing to try new foods] was significantly decreased.
Researchers also strongly emphasized the benefits of the hands-on approach.
Practical approaches such as gardening and cooking activities have been shown to increase children’s vegetable consumption more effectively than passive and controlled nutrition education and have a positive impact on their understanding of foods and long-term eating habits.
The study also highlighted the benefit for kids of greater exposure to the science behind the plant cycle.
Plus, kids will learn that food comes from somewhere besides a package from the grocery store. And another science-backed benefit to growing your own vegetables? Locally grown foods retain far more nutrients than those that have traveled thousands of miles to your supermarket.
Equally important is knowing for sure your veggies are organic. And since organics tend to cost more than conventional produce, it’s good for your budget too.
But just like with dental care, the earlier you begin the better. The younger kids are, the more open they’ll be to acquiring a taste for healthy whole fruits and veggies. That’s good for their oral and overall health alike. With diet playing a significant role in the prevention or development of tooth decay and gum disease, getting kids to love veggies as part of a low inflammation diet can pay off all kinds of ways.
And if your garden includes berries or veg like tomatoes, you’ll also be including the kind of healthy and natural sweetness that can satisfy the taste you crave without the toxic and nutrition-robbing effects of sugar.
So now that you’re convinced, how to begin?
There are plenty of kid-friendly how-to websites and videos online, as well as great overall tips from the University of Texas Extension. If you’re in the area, Arlington greenhouses or nurseries can also be a great place to help you make a plan. If space is an issue, consider gardening in pots. Your bumper crop might be a bit smaller, but cherry tomatoes, hanging strawberries, and container cukes are just as tasty!
Finally, remember to include your kids in the cooking (and cleanup of course!). Not only will they establish better eating habits and get a little exercise along the way; you’ll be guiding them to a longer and happier life of better oral and overall health. By investing in the whole farm-to-table process, who wouldn’t be a little excited to eat the fruits – and veggies – of that labor?