Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Getting kids to eat their veggies

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I thought this would be useful to those with small children. From Part 2 of How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD; the numbers in the text identify footnotes in the book that specify the studies whose finding support the statement.

Getting Kids (and Parents) to Eat Their Veggies

Published strategies for getting kids (of all ages) to eat their vegetables include cutting them into slices, sticks, or stars—the most popular shape.45 Supposedly, putting an Elmo sticker on veggies swayed 50 percent of children to choose broccoli over a chocolate bar.46 If they’re still not biting, though, you can apply the same trick I use to get our dog to take her pills: Dip the veggies in peanut butter. A study found that pairing vegetables with peanut butter successfully increases intake “even in vegetable-resistant children.”47 Offering a salad dressing dip has also been found to help.48

Simply having healthy foods out and available can boost intake. Guess what happened when researchers put out bowls of cut-up fresh fruit in addition to the regular party fare brought by parents for kindergarten or preschool celebrations? No special effort was made to encourage students to choose the fruit—the researchers just put it out on the table with all the other food. Would kids actually eat fruit when such foods as birthday cake, ice cream, and cheese puffs were available? Yes! On average, each kid ate a full fruit serving.49 Take that, cheese puffs!

Even just calling vegetables by different names can help. Elementary schools were able to double vegetable consumption simply by coming up with names that better appealed to the kids. Students ate twice the number of carrots if they were called “X-Ray Vision Carrots,” compared to when they were just carrots or generically called the “Food of the Day.”50 Are adults as gullible? Apparently so. For example, grown-ups reported “Traditional Cajun Red Beans and Rice” tasted better than just “Red Beans with Rice” … even though they were the exact same dish.51

When school cafeterias put out signs like Power Punch Broccoli and Silly Dilly Green Beans, or called broccoli Tiny Tasty Tree Tops, selection of broccoli increased by about 110 percent, and selection of green beans jumped by nearly 180 percent.52 The researchers concluded that “these studies demonstrate that using an attractive name to describe a healthy food in a cafeteria is robustly effective, persistent, and scalable with little or no money or experience. These names were not carefully crafted, discussed in focus groups, and then pretested.” They were just invented out of thin air. And kids were suckered into eating healthier for weeks simply by adults’ putting out silly little signs. Indeed, in the school displaying these playful new names in the cafeteria line, vegetable purchasing went up nearly 100 percent, while in the control school without signs, vegetable purchases started low and actually got worse.53 So why isn’t every single school in the country doing this right now? Bring it up at your next PTA meeting.

Let’s not forget the hide-the-veggies strategy. Studies have shown that broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini can be added covertly to familiar entrées such that the appearance, flavor, and texture of the original recipes are maintained (like puréeing vegetables into a pasta sauce).54 Studies found the trick works for adults too. Researchers were able to slip in up to a pound of clandestine vegetables a day (resulting in 350 fewer calories eaten).55 Surreptitiously incorporating vegetables into foods shouldn’t be the only way that vegetables are served to children, though. Since the appetite for an initially unappetizing vegetable can be increased through repeated exposure, it is important to use several strategies to ensure that kids experience whole vegetables. After all, they’re not always going to be eating at home. One of the most important predictors of children’s fruit and vegetable consumption has been found to be parents’ consumption,56 so if you want your kids to eat healthfully, it helps to be a healthy role model.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2019 at 9:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

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