As the world continues their fixation on a healthier lifestyle, parents are faced with unavoidable mealtime meltdowns. It is no secret getting most children to consume their veggies are a task within its self but researchers suggest getting children involved in mealtime preparation will ultimately help children make healthier decisions when it comes to food.

The Real Kids Alberta evaluation funded by Alberta Health, surveyed students in 151 schools across Alberta to examine kids’ experiences with cooking and food choices. Of the children surveyed, nearly one-third reported helping with meal preparation at least once a day. The other third stated they’d participated in meal preparation one to three times a week. A quarter of children surveyed helped once a month and 12.4 percent avoid mealtime preparation entirely.

Children prefer fruits over veggies because they are sweeter but children who partake in cooking showed a greater preference for both fruits and vegetables. Of the general survey, the number children who chose vegetables over fruits was 10 percent higher in children who helped out in the kitchen than children who did not help out at all. The results also indicated that kids who helped out in the kitchen were more confident about the significance of making healthier food decisions.

Yen Li Chu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health and lead author, believes getting children involved in cooking is an effective health strategy for schools and parents.

Paul Veugelers, Canada Research Chair in Population Health at the University of Alberta and co-author, understands it is important to get children to eat healthier food to promote bone and muscle development, and learning and self-esteem.

Although the survey only included children in the fifth grade, the message is equally important to older children, teens and young adults. According to Veugelers it is important for everyone to be responsible for their own diet, so they will pay attention to good meal preparation.

This study was published in Public Health Nutrition.