Cooking and gardening behaviors and improvements in dietary intake in Hispanic/Latino youth
Background: School gardening interventions typically include cooking and gardening (CG) components; however, few studies have examined associations between CG psychosocial behaviors (attitudes, self-efficacy, and motivation), dietary intake, and obesity parameters. This study assessed the association between changes in CG behaviors with changes in dietary intake and obesity in participants of the LA Sprouts study, an after-school, 12-week, randomized controlled CG intervention conducted in four inner-city elementary schools in Los Angeles. Methods: Process analysis using data from 290 low-income, primarily Hispanic/Latino third through fifth-grade students who were randomized to either the LA Sprouts intervention (n = 160) or control group (n = 130). Height, weight, waist circumference, dietary intake via questionnaire, and CG behaviors were collected at baseline and postintervention. Linear regressions determined whether changes in CG behaviors predicted changes in dietary intake and obesity outcomes. Results: There were no differences in changes in CG psychosocial behaviors between intervention and control groups, therefore groups were combined. Participants were 49% male, 87% Hispanic/Latino, and an average age of nine. Increases in cooking behaviors significantly predicted increases in dietary fiber intake (p = 0.004) and increases in vegetable intake (p = 0.03). Increases in gardening behaviors significantly predicted increased intake of dietary fiber (p = 0.02). Changes in CG behaviors were not associated with changes in BMI z-score or waist circumference. Conclusions: Results from this study suggest that school-based interventions should incorporate CG components, despite their potentially costly and time-intensive nature, as these behaviors may be responsible for improvements in dietary intake of high-risk minority youth.