According to research, toddlers eat more vegetables when they are rewarded for tasting them.
A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht found that giving stickers or small toy crowns can help children develop a taste for healthy foods.
Experts carried out the three-month research program on children aged one to four years in kindergartens in Limburg, the Netherlands.
Maastricht University Campus Venlo researcher Britt van Belkom, who conducted the study, said: “It is important to start eating vegetables from an early age.
“We know from previous research that young children typically need to try a new vegetable eight to ten times before they like it.
“So we looked at whether repeatedly asking kids to try some veggies made them more willing to eat their veggies.
“We were also interested in whether providing a fun reward would make a difference.”
A total of 598 children in the day-care centers took part in the vegetable box program.
They were divided into three groups, with the first given vegetables to taste and then a reward, the second given vegetables and no reward, and a control group not exposed to any vegetables or rewarded.
The first two groups were allowed to try different types of vegetables in the kindergarten every day for three months.
Those in the rewards group received fun non-food rewards like a sticker or toy crown if they tried some vegetables.
Knowledge of vegetables and willingness to try them were measured at the beginning and end of the study.
Knowledge was measured by showing the children 14 different types of vegetables and asking them how many they could name.
The 14 were: tomato, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, pepper, onion, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans, chicory, squash, and asparagus.
Consumption was measured by giving the youngsters the opportunity to taste bite-sized pieces of six vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, radishes and cauliflower – and counting how many they were willing to taste.
The results showed that the control group could identify about eight types of vegetables before the study, but had increased to about 10 after the test.
Those who received rewards and those who did not also identified more vegetables — going from about nine vegetables to 11.
All of the children were willing to try about five to six types before the study began.
This decreased in the control group, remained unchanged in the no-reward group, and increased to seven in the rewarded group.
The research found that vegetable knowledge increased among toddlers in both groups exposed to vegetables compared to the control group.
Willingness to try vegetables increased significantly only among those who received a reward.
Ms van Belkom said: “Regularly offering vegetables to toddlers in daycare significantly increases their ability to identify different types of vegetables.
“But rewarding toddlers for trying vegetables also seems to increase their willingness to try different vegetables.
“But the type of reward is very important – it should be fun, not food.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/revealed-researchers-share-secret-of-getting-children-to-eat-their-vegetables-41620015.html Revealed: Researchers share the secret to getting kids to eat their veggies