Narrative review of culinary interventions with children in schools to promote healthy eating: Directions for future research and practice

Henna Muzaffar, Jessica J. Metcalfe, Barbara Fiese

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Policymakers, scientists, and food and nutrition practitioners suggest that there is a societal decline in culinary skills, which is predictive of poor dietary habits contributing to childhood obesity. A narrative review was conducted to critically evaluate culinary skill interventions for children ages 5-12 y in schools to identify specific programs and programmatic factors associated with improvement in the quality of diet, body mass index (BMI), and positive changes in psychosocial variables. The culinary interventions were implemented in urban and rural areas in the United States, Australia, and England. PubMed and Medline, the Cochrane database, and a hand-search of publications identified 131 articles; 6 articles were selected for further examination on the basis of the inclusion criteria. Study designs included 1 randomized controlled trial and 5 quasi-experimental studies. Three interventions were grounded in behavioral theory, of which 2 incorporated the Social Cognitive Theory framework. The target population and setting included children and early adolescents in schools. The study methodology primarily included cooking classes combined with nutrition education lessons, parent and community components, gardening classes, tasting sessions, school lunchroom components, trips to a farmers market, or visits to a restaurant. Qualitative evaluations of the programs indicated positive findings in terms of program appeal and improvement in cooking skills and healthy eating. Quantitative analysis indicated improvement in food preferences, cooking skills, cooking self-efficacy, cooking behavioral intentions, food-preparation frequency, knowledge, healthy dietary intake, BMI, and blood pressure. The findings from this review support a positive relation between culinary interventions with children in schools and improvement in cooking skills, consumption of a healthy diet, and positive changes in anthropometric assessments. This review also suggests that integration with the academic curriculum and school lunch program may be potential avenues to explore for improving the longevity and success of the cooking programs. Further research should emphasize rigorous methodologic standards, develop theory-based standardized frameworks, and evaluate long-term effects of culinary interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernzy016
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Cooking programs
  • Healthy foods
  • Nutrition education
  • Schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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