Trying to get toddlers to eat their veggies is a common hurdle among families. The secret? Getting tots to try out new vegetables before the age of two, according to new UK research.
The study by The University of Leeds – led by Professor Marion Hetherington in the Institute of Psychological Sciences – also dispelled the popular myth that vegetables tastes need to be masked or hidden in meals in order for children to eat them.
Professor Hetherington said, ‘For parents who wish to encourage healthy eating in their children, our research offers some valuable guidance.
‘If you want to encourage your children to eat vegetables, make sure you start early and often. Even if your child is fussy or does not like veggies, our study shows that five to 10 exposures will do the trick.’
A total of 332 children aged from weaning age to 38 months from the UK, France and Denmark were fed the pretty sophisticated taste of artichoke puree, as part of the study.
During the experiment each child was given between five and 10 servings of at least 100g of the artichoke puree in one of three versions: basic; sweetened, with added sugar; or added energy, where vegetable oil was mixed into the puree.
Younger children consumed more artichoke than older children. This is because after 24 months children become reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods – even those they previously liked. (Sound familiar?)
Among the children, four distinct groups emerged. Most children (40%) were ‘learners’, who increased intake over time. Of the group, 21% consumed more than 75% of what was offered each time and they were called ‘plate-clearers’.
Those who ate less than 10g even by the fifth helping were classified as ‘non-eaters’, amounting to 16% of the cohort, and the remainder were classified as ‘others’ (23%) since their pattern of intake varied over time.
Non-eaters, who tended to be older pre-school children, were the most fussy, the research found.
Furthermore, the results revealed that there was little difference in the amounts eaten over time of basic puree and sweetened puree, highlighting that sweetening vegetables does not make a significant difference to the amount a little one will eat.
The reason globe artichokes were chosen? Parents surveyed revealed that it was one of the vegetables they were least likely to serve up.
Does your toddler eat his veggies? Let us know below!