April 20, 2007 -- The seeds of a healthy diet for children may lie in your own yard.
Kids tend to eat more fruits and vegetables -- and actually like it -- if their produce is homegrown, a new study shows.
"It was a simple, clear finding," says researcher Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, in a news release.
"Whether a food is homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a 'positive food environment,''" says Haire-Joshu, who directs Saint Louis University's Obesity Prevention Center.
"When children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet," says Haire-Joshu.
The study, published in April's Journal of the American Dietetic Association, included the parents of 1,658 children age 2-5 years living in rural Missouri.
The parents were interviewed by telephone about their family's diet, including homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Slightly more than half of the parents (54%) said their family sometimes eats homegrown fruits and vegetables. Another 13% said they almost always or always eat homegrown produce. The remaining 33% said they never eat homegrown produce.
Children who ate the most fruits and vegetables were those in families that always or almost always ate homegrown produce. Those children averaged 5.2 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. That's a full serving more than kids who rarely or never ate homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Kids were also more likely to like specific fruits and vegetables that were homegrown, the study also shows.
Children weren't the only ones who ate more produce if it was homegrown. Their parents did, too.
You don't need acres of space for a garden. Many plants can grow in containers on a balcony or deck. Community gardens are another option, and school gardens are an "ideal situation," write Haire-Joshu and colleagues.