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Want the kids to eat more vegetables? Don't pile on extra -- and maybe add some salt

August 25, 2009 |  1:15 pm

Pleading, bribing, cajoling -- all of these methods have been attempted by parents trying to get their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Kn3xclnc But one tactic -- putting more on their plate -- might not always work. A new study published recently online in the journal Obesity found that doubling portions of vegetables and fruit resulted in more fruit being eaten, but not more vegetables.

Researchers recorded the eating habits of 43 boys and girls ages 5 and 6 who were given two meals consisting of pasta with tomato sauce, milk, carrots, broccoli and unsweetened applesauce. During one meal portion sizes of the vegetables and fruit were doubled, while the pasta and milk portions stayed the same. The vegetables were served plain.

At the meal featuring larger portions, the children ate substantially more applesauce -- an average 43% more. However, there was no significant increase in the amount of carrots and broccoli eaten. At the larger-portion meal kids also ate about a half a serving less of pasta. At the two meals participants ate about the same number of calories.

The moral of the story: Piling extra vegetables on the plate may not do much good to convince the kids that they should eat more. And they'll probably know you're up to something. What do the researchers suggest? Incorporate them into other dishes, like pasta sauce -- a trick with which many parents are familiar. Then there's this, from the study: "It is possible that adding small amounts of fat and seasoning (e.g., salt) to the broccoli and carrots could increase the palatability and thereby children’s acceptance of these foods."

So, wait ... butter and salt might make them taste better? Seriously? We've got to try that.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: David Karp

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Comments (2)

As a dietitian, I don't recommend parents overly encourage their children to eat veggies and that includes serving a big portion. Research shows this can backfire making them want to eat it less. In fact, parents might want to let their child decide the portion for themselves. When children decide to eat vegetables on their own, they are more likely to continue eating them.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD

Add a little Spike or garlic and some lemon juice and they'll eat them. If you roast or grill them you caramelize the natural sugars and they're nutty and delicious.

Mostly if you don't feed your kids junk from the beginning, they'll eat what you give them.


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