Researchers suggest a technique to teach children to eat more vegetables – 06/05/2022

It is not always easy to include vegetables, fruits and vegetables in the children’s diary. Researchers at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, however, seem to have succeeded in finding a better strategy.

According to the study’s authors, released this Thursday, at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht, children are more willing to eat vegetables if they get some kind of reward – and it can. For example, don’t be sweet.

“It’s important to start eating vegetables at an early age,” said Britt Van Belkom, author of the magazine from the university’s Youth, Food and Health Program. “We know from previous research that young children usually try eight to ten times before they like a new vegetable.”

How the study was done

The authors analyzed 598 children aged 1 to 4 years from school centers in Limburg, Netherlands. Vegetable box. “In this program, children are exposed to vegetables every day at day care centers,” Van Belkom explains in a press interview.

The program offers a scientifically proven way to promote the consumption of these foods, and provides teachers and educators with practical tools to integrate vegetables into daily snacks for children at home and at school.

As a result, the researchers randomly divided the children into three groups:

  1. Exposure to vegetables, with reward;
  2. Exposure to vegetables, but no reward;
  3. Control group (no exposure / reward).

The children of the first two groups were allowed to try a variety of vegetables every day for three months at school.

Knowledge of vegetables and taste desire was measured before and during the intervention period of research.

Asian kid eating broccoli - istak - istak
Image: Istak

Another important point that the authors highlight is that the reward cannot be another food such as sweets. For study, they chose fun gifts such as toy stickers, cards, or crowns (king or queen).

Vegetables selected to test children’s knowledge include: tomato, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, pepper, onion, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans, chicory, pumpkin and asparagus.

Identifying foods

Scientists tested their knowledge by showing participants 14 vegetables and then asked how much they could name – the maximum score was 14.

At the pre-test in the control group, the children were able to identify about 8 vegetables, and three months later the number rose to about 10.

In the “Vegetable Exposure, but No Reward” group and the “Exposure / Reward” group, in the pre-test, children were able to name about 9 vegetables and, after the assessment period, 11.

Tasting vegetables

Food consumption is measured by giving the toddler the chance to taste six small pieces of vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, radish and cauliflower, and calculate how much they are willing to taste. At this point, the maximum score was 12.

In the pre-test, they were willing to try about 5 to 6 vegetables in all groups. In the reward group, this number increased to 7. In the control and non-reward group, the index is the same.

“Only when they are exposed to vegetables and rewarded for doing so can you see a significant increase in trying foods after 3 months,” the study’s authors say.

“Regularly providing vegetables to children in day care will significantly increase their ability to identify different foods.

Baby-eating salad, healthy food, baby food - iStock - iStock
Image: iStock

The importance of creating habits from an early age

In conversation with Live wellResearcher Britt van Belkom explained that this type of reward system can have a good (rather than negative) impact when children are exposed repeatedly.

“If you repeat this exposure, we hope that these kids, over time and with no reward, will be able to continue eating vegetables,” he says. In this way, they are always prevented from growing “accustomed” to accepting something in return.

“We already notice this kind of arrangement going into the bathroom when they’re young. After a while, they stop getting rewards for doing this,” he says. The same logic for creating healthy habits. Over time, it tends to be something natural.

* The reporter traveled at the invitation of Novo Nordisk.

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