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Cooking Class Benefits Kids in Many Ways

THURSDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A program that helps elementary school students develop cooking skills while learning subjects such as geography, math, science and cultural studies may be one way to fight the growing problem of childhood obesity in the United States.

In a new study, researchers assessed an experimental food-and-nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids, in which students explore, prepare and enjoy fresh, affordable foods from a number of cultures. The program also teaches students the social skills of working together to prepare a meal and then enjoying it together.

The study included 178 fourth-grade students and their teachers who were interviewed before and after a series of cooking-plus-tasting or tasting-only classes that were integrated into the normal school curriculum.

Teachers and students who took part in both types of food classes found it to be a positive experience, and those who had the cooking classes said it gave them opportunities to improve their social skills.

Students who had the cooking-plus-tasting classes did not regard cooking-related tasks at home as chores, unlike those who had the tasting-only classes or those who had neither type of food class, the University of Colorado researchers said.

The study appears in the November/December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"This study describes student and teacher perceptions about the integration of nutrition education programs with academic curriculum topics, which is essential in justifying nutrition education's continued place in the school curriculum. It documents the importance of including cooking in school curriculum as it is a practical mechanism to promote health, social and educational skills to better prepare students for adulthood." said Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, in a journal news release.

Childhood obesity in the United States has tripled over the past 30 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the release noted.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about childhood obesity.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, news release, Nov. 8, 2011

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