PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesHealthy eating
Healthy eating
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by the EPPI Centre Health Promotion and Public Health Reviews Reviews Facility

Work with parents
Consulting with children
Cardiovascular disease
Cooking skills for adults
Obesity (opens a new page)


  • A 'whole school' approach (i.e. one involving all members of the school community) can be effective in promoting healthy eating.[1]
  • Interventions which make changes to the availability of healthy foods in the school, complemented by classroom activities to provide information on nutrition, can be effective.[1]
  • Classroom-based initiatives to promote healthy eating (e.g. small group discussions, peer-led activities), complemented by analysis of environmental influences on food, have been judged effective for reported healthy eating, particularly among young women.[1] However, teacher preparation time must be kept to a minimum in order to ensure successful implementation.[2]
  • There was no evidence of the effectiveness of single component interventions, such as classroom lessons alone or providing fruit-only tuck shops.[2]
  • Implementing school-based interventions will lead to, on average, an increase in children's intake of fruit and vegetables equivalent to one fifth of a portion of fruit per day and a little less than one fifth of a portion of vegetables per day.[2]
  • Bigger effect sizes can be expected from interventions in which the promotion of fruits and/or vegetables is the main message.[2]  

Work with parents

Bigger effect sizes can also be expected as a result of intensive interventions targeted at parents who are motivated to change their behaviour.[2]  

Consulting with children

  • Bigger effect sizes can be expected from those interventions which build on ideas for appropriate interventions derived from children's views and experiences.[2]
  • The studies of children's views suggested that interventions should treat fruit and vegetables in different ways, and should not focus on health warnings. Interventions which were in line with these suggestions tended to be more effective than those that were not.[2]
  • Children should be consulted on matters concerning the promotion of their healthy eating.[2]

Cardiovascular disease

Two strategies have been associated with favourable changes in clinical risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a) health risk reduction screening combined with classroom-based educational activities; and b) initiatives to involve parents, in which results of the screening are fed back to young people in order to set behavioural goals. However, problems related to implementation of such interventions have also been identified.[1]

Cooking skills for adults

Thirteen courses were evaluated; they varied in three main ways: (i) whether or not the content of the training sessions was tailored to the needs of people with specific illnesses, ethnic backgrounds or life stages; (ii) whether or not the initiative recruited people from the community who then taught others; and (iii) whether courses were initiated by research teams in order that they be evaluated, or whether the courses existed prior to evaluation.

Most of the courses did not evaluate impact adequately. However, one well-conducted evaluation of peer-led cooking clubs for people aged 65 or older in sheltered housing in socially deprived areas suggests that cooking courses in this population might have beneficial impacts. Participants in the clubs also enjoyed the social aspects of their cooking sessions and appreciated learning from people of a similar age and authority. [3]


For studies relating to obesity, click here.


1. Young people and healthy eating: a systematic review of research on barriers and facilitators  (2001)

2. Children and healthy eating: a systematic review of barriers and facilitators (2003)

3. Communities that cook: a systematic review of the effectiveness and appropriateness of interventions to introduce adults to home cooking (2012)

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