One of the best ways to encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and try new dishes is to get them involved in shopping for and preparing meals. The younger you start them, the better. Washing produce, tearing apart lettuce and tossing salads are all things that young children can do.
If you have a 9- or 10-year-old boy or girl that you can’t seem to keep out from under your feet when you are trying to prepare dinner, consider this an invitation to get involved in the iCook 4-H project at the University of Maine Extension Service. The effort is about eating well and being physically active, as well as developing healthy habits. Plus, you could earn $80.
The study, which will be conducted at the five land-grant universities in Maine, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia, is focused on improving culinary skills, promoting family meals and increasing physical activity. The project is designed to test how an intervention over two years may affect youths’ body mass indexes.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the study will accept 100 Maine children ages 9 and 10, with the child and a meal-preparing adult participating together. The children will have their height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure measured and will answer survey questions four times over the next two years. Starting in the fall, half of the children and adults will be offered six classes about how families can cook and be physically active together.
Locations for the project will be in the Ellsworth and Bangor areas. Participants who complete the study will receive $80.
To participate, children and adults must:
— Be free from food allergies and/or activity-related medical restrictions that may prevent them from participating in a face-to-face food and fitness program
— Be willing to eat meat and dairy, as vegetarian options may not be available
— Have a computer at home with Internet access
In Maine, the team of researchers, students and Cooperative Extension faculty members is led by Adrienne White, a human nutrition professor, and Kate Yerxa, statewide educator for nutrition and physical activity. White said she wants participants to go to the grocery store together, learn how to make healthful selections, and look forward to cooking and eating together. She believes these positive changes could lead to healthier and happier lives.
“We hope people begin to cook more and eat together more and be more aware of their food,” White said. “We just want people to get back to loving food, understanding food and being able to work with food.”
White said culinary skills and eating together as a family are considered important aspects of following a nutritious diet. Researchers have shown adolescents are less likely to engage in deviant behavior or to have eating disorders when their families eat together.
For information about the study or to participate, call (207) 581-3315 or visit www.facebook.com/icook4h.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.