Offering Kids Multiple Vegetable Options Encourages Them to Eat More, Study Shows

When it comes to veggies, multiple options are key.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

The trick to getting our kids to eat more veggies could be as easy as offering more. Yes, you read that right. Offer your kids more of the thing they turn their nose up at. Sounds a bit crazy but stay with us on this one and you may be pleasantly surprised.

According to a new study, parents who repeatedly offer a variety of vegetables to their kids eventually win the eat-your-vegetables battle because their kids accept that eating something from nature is actually pretty yummy. According to the study, parents who offer a variety of vegetables at mealtime reported that their kids increased their daily veggie intake. So, no magic was used in this study, just a bit of persistence.

"Low acceptance is a key reason for low vegetable intake in children,” said lead author of the study, Astrid A.M. Poelman. “Vegetables are less sweet and more bitter than most foods. These properties predispose to low acceptance because of innate likes and dislikes. However, food preferences are largely learned, with childhood being a critical phase."

For the study, researchers looked at 32 families with children between the ages of four and six. The kids were described as picky eaters and, according to their parents, consumed vegetables in small quantities. Each family was placed in one of three groups: kids who were served a single vegetable, kids who were served multiple vegetables and kids who had no change to their regular eating habits.

What they found was the group of kids who were offered multiple vegetables increased consumption from .6 to 1.2 servings. Researchers also found no change in the consumption of the other two groups.

Now, before you head out to the grocery store and stock up on every veggie you can find, researchers say that three is the magic number. At mealtime, you only need to offer three veggie options to increase your child’s familiarity with vegetables and eventually increase their consumption.

So, what can you do if you have a picky eater and you don’t want to risk tossing uneaten vegetables? Try offering up smaller portions of three different vegetables. This way, the amount of uneaten vegetables won’t go to waste and kids aren’t overwhelmed with a large portion of food they don’t like. Or, offer a few different dips and sauces. Even if the pairings sound crazy, like ketchup and green beans, take it as a win. Finally, have your kids help you in the kitchen to prepare the food. If they have a hand in planning and cooking the vegetables, they may be more likely to try something new.

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