Parents across the country will know how much of a nightmare it is sometimes to get more greens in your toddler’s diet. Thankfully scientists have discovered the secret to get young children interested in eating vegetables.
Experts carried out the three-month research programme on hundreds of children on aged one to four at nurseries in Limburg, Netherlands. The study ultimately found that giving children stickers or small toys may help them develop a taste for healthy food.
Researcher Britt van Belkom, from Maastricht University Campus Venlo, who carried out the study, said: “It’s important to start eating vegetables from a young age. We know from previous research that young children typically have to try a new vegetable eight to 10 times before they like it.”
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He added: “And so we looked at whether repeatedly asking children to try some vegetables would make them more willing to eat their greens. We were also interested in whether providing a fun reward would make a difference.”
The children who took part in the study were split into three groups, with the first given vegetables to try and then a reward; the second given vegetables and no reward and a control group which was not exposed to vegetables or rewarded.
The research found that knowledge of vegetables in toddlers increased in the two groups which were exposed to their greens, relative to the control group who weren’t. However, actual willingness to try vegetables only increased significantly in the group given a reward, such as a sticker or toy crown.
This all suggests that introducing vegetables to your toddler from an early age, and rewarding them for trying them, is key to them developing a taste for healthier food.
Ms van Belkom said: “Regularly offering vegetables to toddlers at day care centres significantly increases their ability to recognise various vegetables but rewarding toddlers for tasting vegetables appears to also increase their willingness to try different vegetables. The type of reward is, however, very important – it should be fun but not food.”