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Variety is the key when introducing children to vegetables

The more choices children have, the easier acceptance will be

Photo (c) Oksana Kuzmina - Fotolia
Choosing healthy foods isn’t always easy or preferable for consumers -- especially young ones. But findings from a new study show that parents can do something to make it more likely for their children to eat their vegetables.

A team of researchers say that giving children a variety of options when it comes to healthy foods makes it more likely that they’ll accept them. 

The study, which involved 32 families, involved trying to encourage young children to incorporate more vegetables into their diets. Families were chosen to either introduce several new vegetables to their children, one new vegetable, or make no changes to their diet or eating habits with their kids. 

Over the course of five weeks, parents were given instructions on how to cook the vegetables they were bringing to the table. They also kept a log of their children’s vegetable intake, including how it differed -- or didn’t -- from before the study began. 

The children in the study were required to eat two dinners at a testing facility without their parents. While several vegetables were served, the children had free reign over which food items they put on their plates. Though the researchers didn’t notice any increase in the children’s vegetable intake at these meals, the children were rewarded at home each time they had vegetables. 

Greater variety led to healthier food choices

Ultimately, children were more eager to accept healthy food choices and eat more of them when they had a greater number of options.e. 

Children in families who introduced just one new vegetable proved to be more accepting of the healthy options over the course of the study, but their diets didn’t change over the long-term to incorporate more vegetables. 

The researchers were pleased to learn that there are tangible ways to introduce new, healthy foods to children. They believe that parents don’t have to stress about mealtime -- especially with little ones. 

“While the amount of vegetables eaten increased during the study, the amount did not meet dietary guidelines,” said researcher Astrid A.M. Poleman, PhD. “Nonetheless, the study showed the strategy of offering a variety of vegetables was more successful in increasing consumption than offering a single vegetable.” 

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