The trick to getting kids to eat their vegetables? Give them more


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Getting kids to eat their vegetables isn’t always easy. But a new study suggests that giving them more may make them inclined to eat more.

Researchers from Penn State worked with 51 kids ages 3 to 5 in a daycare center as test subjects. For four weeks, the children were given increasing amounts of carrot sticks with a low-fat dip before they ate lunch, which consisted of macaroni and cheese, steamed broccoli, applesauce and milk. During one of those weeks the kids received no carrots or any other food before lunch.


As the amount of carrots the kids were given increased, from 30 grams to 60 grams (about a half cup) to 90 grams, so did the amount eaten. Doubling the portion size of the carrots resulted in the kids eating 47% more. Tripling the portion size, however, didn’t further bump up consumption.

Eating more carrots did not result, however, in eating more broccoli -- that stayed fairly steady through every test condition. The kids also ate about the same amount of the main meal regardless of how many carrots they had.

Maureen Spill, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a news release that the results could have some practical applications: ‘The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they’re hungry. Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable.’

The study appears in the May 1 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

— Jeannine Stein