A study of fifth graders in Novia Scotia confirms that a healthier diet leads to better academic performance.

Quoth Reuters: “Students who ate an adequate amount of fruit, vegetables, protein, fiber and other components of a healthy diet were significantly less likely to fail a literacy test, Dr. Paul J. Veugelers of the University of Alberta in Edmonton and colleagues found.”

It’s widely accepted that a healthy breakfast gives kids a mental and physical boost each morning, but this study shows that it’s important to keep eating healthy meals throughout the day. Of course, this is kind of a no-brainer—no mother wants her little genius to subsist on Doritos and McNuggets—but it takes a clever parent to convince picky kids to eat healthy foods. According to Cooking Light, part of the problem may be that kids are out of touch with the food they eat:

In a study conducted by Antonia Demas, Ph.D., of the Food Studies Institute in Trumansburg, New York, children were allowed to touch and smell a number of ingredients and then asked if they’d ever eaten them. They universally failed to recognize the basil they ate regularly on pizza, the ginger they’d had in gingersnaps, and the dill they’d tasted in pickles.

To be completely honest here, my mom was never into cooking, so I wasn’t exposed to fresh herbs or ginger as a kid, either. And I really didn’t enjoy eating vegetables until I started college. Once I started cooking for myself and got involved with a CSA, which exposed me to many new vegetables, and I developed a new appreciation for healthy food—and food in general. Apparently, a little cooking instruction can have the same effect on younger kids as well. Cooking Light reports that “children who learn to cook eat 20 times more whole grains, legumes, and vegetables than their noncooking counterparts.”

Perhaps the best way to get kids to eat healthy—instead of secretly sneaking spinach into their brownies—is to bring them into the kitchen and show them exactly what’s headed to their dinner plates.

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