Derek Hersch, BS; Laura Perdue, MPH, RD; Teresa Ambroz, MPH, RD; Jackie L. Boucher, MS, RD, CDE
Suggested citation for this article: Hersch D, Perdue L, Ambroz T, Boucher JL. The Impact of Cooking Classes on Food-Related Preferences, Attitudes, and Behaviors of School-Aged Children: A Systematic Review of the Evidence, 2003–2014. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:140267. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.140267.
Cooking programs have been used to promote healthful eating among people of all ages. This review assesses the evidence on childhood cooking programs and their association with changes in food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors of school-aged children.
We systematically searched PubMed, Ovid-Medline, and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) databases. We included primary research articles that involved cooking education programs for children and searched reference lists for eligible articles. Studies considered for review contained a hands-on cooking intervention; had participants aged 5 to 12 years; were published in a peer-reviewed journal on or after January 1, 2003; and were written in English. We used the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies to rate the strength of each article and assess bias. The following information was extracted from each study: study design, sample size, location, duration, intervention components, data collection methods, and outcomes.
Eight studies met the inclusion criteria and used cooking education to influence children’s food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Programs varied in duration, evaluation methods, and outcomes of interest. Self-reported food preparation skills, dietary intake, cooking confidence, fruit and vegetable preferences, attitudes toward food and cooking, and food-related knowledge were among the outcomes measured. Program exposure ranged from 2 sessions to regular instruction over 2 years, and the effect of cooking programs on children’s food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors varied among the reviewed studies.
Findings suggest that cooking programs may positively influence children’s food-related preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. However, because study measurements varied widely, determining best practices was difficult. Further research is needed to fill knowledge gaps on ideal program length, long-term effects, and usefulness of parent engagement, tasting lessons, and other intervention components.