(Natural News) Children aren’t big fans of veggies. Parents are often hard-pressed to get them to eat their greens and other healthful but less appetizing foods.
But a group of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia and Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands found that offering at least three vegetables at a time can encourage acceptance and increased consumption in children.
Published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the results of their intervention demonstrated that exposing children aged four to six to multiple vegetables at a time led to increased vegetable acceptance, increased intake and decreased food phobia.
Exposure to multiple vegetables increases children’s vegetable intake
Past studies on children and their eating habits often feature trials that use single exposure techniques in children aged four to six. More often than not, studies using this technique turned up little to no positive results.
Multiple exposure, on the other hand, is a less studied technique, and studies that do feature this technique often offer differing results. At best, this technique had been used in some studies that tried to introduce foods to infants.
These earlier infant studies found that offering three different vegetables in an alternating schedule led to an increase in vegetable intake. On the other hand, repeated exposure to a single vegetable did not produce the same results.
To test this same technique on children for the first time, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial that featured 32 children aged four to six reported to consume less than the recommended vegetable intake for their age group.
The researchers then divided the children into three groups. Those in the first group are to be exposed to just one vegetable for the entire intervention period. Those in the second group are to be exposed to three different vegetables in an alternating schedule. Children in the third group are to continue their eating habits.
Parents participated in the intervention in order to record their children’s vegetable consumption and eating habits. Children in the first group had to eat broccoli three times a week for five weeks.
On the other hand, children in the second group received a rotation of broccoli, peas and courgette (zucchini). For example, children receive just broccoli and courgette for one meal, and broccoli and peas the next.
Three months after the intervention ended, the researchers checked back on the children’s eating habits. All three groups of children had been invited to the lab for a meal in order to assess possible changes in their vegetable consumption. The researchers also looked at their parents’ food records.
It then appeared that children in the single exposure group and the control group demonstrated no change in their vegetable consumption. In contrast, children in the multiple exposure group doubled their vegetable intake from 0.6 to 1.2 servings a day.
Parents of the children in the multiple exposure group also reported that offering vegetables to their children had been “very easy” or “quite easy.” (Related: How do we get more kids to eat more vegetables? A review of methods.)
Lead author Astrid Poelman said that although this serving isn’t near the recommended guidelines, their research confirmed that the multiple exposure technique is far more successful in increasing vegetable consumption in children than the single exposure technique.
Poelman and her team also noted that the dislike or hatred of vegetables in children and other kinds of food preferences, for that matter, are learned behaviors.
Childhood is a critical phase of development, and it is around the ages of three to six that children begin to learn preferences and practice food avoidance.
Therefore, exposing children to a variety of vegetables repeatedly during this time is crucial to helping them be more open to different kinds of foods and overcome possible food phobias.
Learn more about interventions for increasing vegetable consumption in children at Veggie.news.