game at home, parents can help their children learn to like vegetables, a new
study shows. Parents often struggle with children who refuse to eat their
vegetables because they don't like the bitter flavours. This can lead to kids
becoming picky eaters and not having a balanced diet.
are important because they choose the foods that come into the house and are
served at meals. They are also role models," Jane Wardle told Reuters
Health in an email. She worked on the study at the Health Behaviour Research
Centre of University College London.
when it comes to vegetables, even vegetable-loving parents can have children
who won't eat them," Wardle added. Past studies showed researchers and
doctors can make kids more open to eating veggies by repeatedly offering them
tastes followed by a reward.
strategy requires several office visits, and not all parents of fussy eaters
can get professional advice.
In the new study, Wardle and her colleagues
found a similar process could be used by parents at home. They called the
intervention Tiny Tastes. The researchers recruited families of three-year-old
twins from England and Wales.
families were randomly selected to be in the Tiny Tastes group. They were sent
the tasting game kits, which included booklets, reward stickers and a link to
an online instruction video.The booklets, stickers and instructions are now
sold online in the UK for about £6, or R100. The program is online here: The
rest of the families did not receive a kit and were used as a comparison group.
All families were asked to select one vegetable that each child disliked.
instructed to perform a simple test that measured how much of that vegetable
the child would eat at the beginning of the study and again, 14 days later. For
the next two weeks, families in the Tiny Tastes group offered children tastes
of the selected vegetable every day. Kids could chose a sticker if they tried
the comparison group were told to follow their usual approach to eating
vegetables for two weeks. All families then completed a final test to see if
there was any change in how kids felt about the vegetables.
were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Parents
chose vegetables like red peppers, celery, cucumbers and carrots. Of the 196
children who went through the Tiny Tastes program, the number who would eat the
selected vegetable rose from 39 before the intervention to 141 after.
comparison group showed little improvement, on the other hand. Only five of the
kids who initially refused to eat their vegetable became willing to eat some or
all of it."At the end of the study, children who had done Tiny Tastes
liked the vegetables more and ate more," said Wardle.
and children both enjoyed it, and many parents went on to use the same approach
for other foods."Since parents did the testing and gave out the stickers,
it's possible their own biases could have affected the outcome. But Wardle
believes the results are accurate.
She said it
may take up to 10 tries for kids to learn to like vegetables, but only tiny
pieces are needed. She also suggested parents approach it as a game, to make it
I draw from this study, which is consistent with many others, is that we want our
children to associate positive experiences with eating,"
Angela Lemond told Reuters Health in an email.
Lemond is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy
of Nutrition and Dietetics. She was not involved in the new research. She also
said parents should expose kids to a variety of foods.
delete foods when a child rejects them one, two or even five times. This is so
common, and it is one of the things that contributes to 'picky eating'
issues," Lemond said. When it comes to conquering food issues, patience is
also a virtue."The
problem occurs when parents delete rejected foods and instead, serve the same
five foods that the child does eat and then that child is considered a picky
eater," she said.
are innately discerning eaters, and that is normal. If you know this then you
will take heart when they deny a food. Be patient, and keep experiences
positive. They will respond positively."