Home cooking programs are an increasingly popular approach to nutrition education and have the potential to promote diet quality among pediatric cancer survivors. A cornerstone of many programs is the use of fresh fruits and vegetables, which may support increased intake of many food components, including carotenoids, to improve survivor health. However, most dietary carotenoids in the United States currently come from processed vegetables, and it is unclear if the emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables common in cooking education programs is associated with the total carotenoid content of meals. The objective of this analysis is to examine the relationship between fresh produce usage, practices commonly taught in healthy home cooking classes, and the carotenoid content of prepared meals among 40 parents with school-aged children. This is a secondary analysis of an observational study examining the quality of home cooking practices using an evidence-based index of behaviors, the Healthy Cooking Index (HCI). Nutrition-optimizing cooking practices, as quantified by the HCI, were not associated with the carotenoid content of meals (r = −0.24, p
= 0.13). Further, total fruit and vegetable content of meals was not associated with total carotenoids (r = 0.14; p
= 0.38), indicating heterogeneity in the carotenoid profiles of foods used by this population. High-carotenoid meals tended to use more canned and/or frozen tomato and vegetable products, and carotenoid content was associated with meals with sugar (r = 0.32; p
= 0.04), and servings of refined grains (r = 0.49; p
< 0.01). Our findings indicate an opportunity to educate pediatric cancer survivors and families on the incorporation of high-carotenoid food products while reducing refined grain and sweetener intake through a tailored home cooking intervention.
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