Starting Healthy Eating Habits Early - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Research provides support to caregivers to increase pulse consumption among children
When Dr. Amanda Froehlich Chow, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Kinesiology, recently completed her PhD, she designed and carried out a pulse crop pilot intervention.
“I looked at rural childcare and the barriers and facilitators to providing opportunities for increasing physical activity and healthy eating within childcare centres,” says Froehlich Chow, whose PhD focused on implementing a physical and healthy eating intervention, nested within the healthy eating component. “Cost is a big barrier, as is the availability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.”
Having grown up in the country’s leading pulse producing province, but recognizing the low consumption of pulses locally, Froehlich Chow initiated a second pilot study with funding from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers to evaluate the impact of the pulse crop pilot intervention to expand the variety of healthy dietary options provided to early years’ children in childcare centres.
Carried out over 28 weeks, the pulse crop intervention study involved providing one rural centre, consisting of eight educators and 25 to 30 children, with information about where pulse crops are grown, the nutrient quality of pulses, and the numerous health benefits of consuming pulse crops. Dr. Froehlich Chow also provided educators with recipes and instructions on how to cook and bake with pulse crops, and even provided a supply of lentils.
The objectives of the study were to determine if the intervention increased knowledge and awareness about the nutritional value and health benefits of pulse crops among childcare staff, which included educators and chefs, support staff in providing children with more opportunities for pulse crop consumption, and increase pulse crop consumption among children.
The researchers conducted pre- and post-surveys using questionnaires with educators about their knowledge, use, and consumption of pulses. Results indicated that prior to the pulse crop intervention, childcare staff knew very little about the nutritional value of pulse crops and they did not feel comfortable cooking or baking pulses. Following the 28-week intervention, results from the pulse crop questionnaire, menu reviews, and interviews clearly indicated that childcare staff had increased their knowledge and use of pulse crops.
“A number of educators increased their use from sometimes/rarely, to once a week,” Dr. Froehlich Chow says. “So it impacted them at home as well as at the childcare centre.”
Dr. Froehlich Chow is now working on a subsequent project. This project will involve the development of pulse food products, including pulse puffs and pulse pasta. In addition, she will be working with her colleagues to develop a pulse discovery tool kit for childcare centres consisting of a pulse-based recipe book including detailed nutrient content of the recipes, as well as lesson plans and activities.
“We want to encourage local consumption of pulses in adults and children,” Dr. Froehlich Chow says. “Children develop habits early, so if they are introduced to pulses in a variety of ways at a young age, they are more likely to continue to regularly incorporate pulses into their diet throughout their life.”
Dr. Froehlich Chow says they will pilot the tool kit and pulse-based foods in selected childcare centres, and is hoping to share it widely in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada.
SPG Investment: $29,000
Project Length: 2.5 years
Dr. Amanda Froehlich Chow - Postdoctoral Fellow, College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Anne Leis - Professor, Department of Community of Health & Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan