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Hey there, Compassionate One!

We don’t need science to tell us that, given the choice between veggies and candy, the average child will choose the sugar.

Science confirms that 80% of children will indeed make the unhealthy choice.

Children are pretty easy to entice, though. When researchers added an Elmo sticker to the broccoli, as many as 50% of children went for the green stuff. As we’ve discussed before , a similar effect can be observed in schools when cafeterias make an effort to make the healthy options more appealing.

We already know, too, that decreasing the size of a cookie compelled children to consume less cookies in total. We’d be wise to ask how we could cut up veggies so they’d eat more. Size? Shape? Whole or chopped?

Test results have been crystal clear. Shape appears to be most important to children, who prefer cut vegetables, especially in shapes like stars. Sticks proved no more appealing than whole veg. And when it comes to size, a normal size tends to be preferable to miniature.

And here’s a fun takeaway from that study: if a child is particularly resistant to eating a certain veggie, pairing it with peanut butter seems to work well to increase consumption. Other healthy dips (check out my awesome recipes if you’re stuck for inspiration) are a great alternative.

Disguising veggies also proved effective in upping children’s intake. However, pureeing broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower and other veg into familiar dishes without changing the texture or flavor of those foods is not the most sustainable way to get our children eating healthier. After all, it takes repeated trials for children to develop a taste for foods they may initially find unappealing. Ultimately, hiding their veggies in other dishes won’t do them any long-term favors.

Most important of all, however, is how we feed our children healthy foods. One study looked at different parenting styles and correlation to vegetable intake in children, and the most important factor was…

Are you ready for this?

The most important factor in children’s fruit and veg consumption was their parents.

Children whose parents ate more healthy foods (modeling these choices for them) made similar choices.

xx

Donna

Resource:
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D. Marchiori, L. Waroquier, O. Klein. Split them! smaller item sizes of cookies lead to a decrease in energy intake in children. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 May-Jun;44(3):251-5.
C. A. Johnston, J. L. Palcic, C. Tyler, S. Stansberry, R. S. Reeves, J. P. Foreyt. Increasing vegetable intake in Mexican-American youth: A randomized controlled trial. J Am Diet Assoc 2011 111(5):716 – 720.
A. Olsen, C. Ritz, L. Kramer, P. Moller. Serving styles of raw snack vegetables. What do children want? Appetite 2012 59(2):556 – 562.
K. K. Isoldi, S. Dalton, D. P. Rodriguez, M. Nestle. Classroom cupcake celebrations: observations of foods offered and consumed. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 Jan-Feb;44(1):71-5.
J. O. Fisher, J. A. Mennella, S. O. Hughes, Y. Liu, P. M. Mendoza, H. Patrick. Offering “dip” promotes intake of a moderately-liked raw vegetable among preschoolers with genetic sensitivity to bitterness. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012 112(2):235 – 245.
B. Wansink, K. van Ittersum, J. E. Painter. How descriptive food names bias sensory perceptions in restaurants. Food Qual Prefer. 2005 16(5):393­-400.