Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables

I must admit, I don’t remember ever not liking vegetables.  Even when I was really young, I never understood why Dennis the Menace didn’t want to eat his peas or his broccoli (maybe his mom’s just a bad cook.)  I loved when I was assigned the task of picking cherry tomatoes before dinner—because that meant I could eat a few as I plucked the ripe ones off their vine.  I always wanted to take as much asparagus as I could get away with (”Can I have 8 pieces?”).  The only vegetable I can remember not enjoying were beets—I had to get to be quite a bit older before I could appreciate them.

That having been said, I understand that not all children get excited about eating fresh vegetables.  Researchers at Penn State have determined with empirical evidence that a common-sense solution works: feed kids fresh veggies before the meal, when they are at their hungriest.

[The researchers] found that when preschool children received no first course of carrots, they consumed about 23 grams (nearly 1 ounce) of broccoli from the main course.

When the children received 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of carrots at the start of the meal, their vegetable intake rose by nearly 50 percent compared to having no carrots as a first course. But when the first course was increased to 60 grams (about 2 ounces) of carrots, average vegetable consumption nearly tripled to about 63 grams — or a third of the recommended vegetable intake for preschool children.

Putting the team’s findings to use should be quite easy.  As researcher Maureen Spill notes, “The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they’re hungry.”

The first step toward getting anyone to enjoy a new flavor is getting them to taste it.  While no one will necessarily enjoy every new food that they try, they will not enjoy every food that they don’t try.  Or, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”  Simply getting kids to taste something different could help them to realize that they actually enjoy the flavor, crunch, and finger-food nature of fresh vegetables.

One other strategy parents might use?  Maureen Spill suggests (and I heartily concur) that “Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable.”

For more information on the Penn State study, click here.

2 Responses to “Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables”

  1. Mike Says:

    Our pediatrician told us that ON AVERAGE it takes 30 introductions of a food for a child to acquire a taste for it. So for every food that it takes 5 introductions for them to get it (say applesauce) there is a food that takes 55 introductions for them to get it (say avacado). So introduce…. don’t get mad if they don’t like it… repeat.

  2. Martha Says:

    Our kid will eat most veggies if they are either grilled, roasted, full of garlic or any combination.
    Though she did announce at dinner the other night “This steak is delicious. I am so glad I am a carnivore!”

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