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Aug 4, 2011

Encouraging Children to Eat Their Veggies

We’ have all heard the famous line that “children don’'t like vegetables.”  It is true that most people, young and old, like the taste of sweets and may express it as a preference over the taste of vegetables.  But contrary to what many people believe, most children enjoy eating vegetables when provided the opportunity. 
Probably one of the most important things parents can do to get their children to “eat all of their vegetables” is to model this behavior regularly.  Children learn and develop habits by watching others. When parents show consistent interest in eating different types of vegetables on their plates, children will naturally follow.  If you want your children to develop healthy habits, it’s always a good idea to look at yourself first and make any necessary changes as early on as possible!  If you really want to peak your childs interest, take them for a visit to a community garden or farm, and let them explore where their food comes from.  This can be a wonderful hands-on learning opportunity that will also stimulate more interest in eating a variety of foods.  

For those parents seeking out other options to encourage increased consumption of veggies in their child’s diet, consider throwing some vegetables into the blender and finding creative ways to enhance typical recipes with the resulting puree.  Researchers at Pennsylvania State University randomly gave 40 children regular meals or meals with either 3 or 4 times the vegetable content of the regular meals.  Pureed vegetables were included in some of the meals, including zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower and squash.  When the children were asked to rate the taste as yucky, O.K. or yummy, over 70% of the children gave the vegetable-enhanced meals ratings as O.K. or yummy.  It was observed that the 3-6 year-olds consumed the same amount of food by weight whether or not the meals included the pureed veggies.  This study was published in the April 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.   

So there you have it- the old adage that you have to force kids to eat their veggies has been debunked!

Dr. Shana McQueen