Until about the age of two, most children are accepting of new foods, although it may take several attempts to get them used to them. Then, sometimes for several years, many children become more “difficult”. So it’s not uncommon for some of them to avoid families of foods, especially vegetables. It is therefore necessary to make them change their minds by testing different vegetables and in different forms: raw, cooked, in salads, in chewable sticks … in gratin. But for the most reluctant children, a team of researchers from Maastricht University unveiled at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht, the Netherlands (4-7 May), a trick that could help many parents. Their study revealed that young children are more likely to eat more vegetables if they are rewarded in a playful way after at least trying.
While this research may seem futile, it is actually important because a healthy daily diet can reduce the risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. However, this good habit acquired from childhood is often maintained and reproduced in adulthood. But, as many parents know, young children often do not like to see green vegetables on their plates. “ It is important to start eating vegetables at an early age. Researcher Brett Van Belcomb explains. ” We know from previous research that children usually have to try a new vegetable eight to ten times before they like it. So we investigated whether asking them over and over to try vegetables would make them more willing to eat them. We also wanted to know if offering a fun reward would make a difference. »
Rewarding children for tasting vegetables increases their desire to try different types.
To conduct this study, 598 children aged 1 to 4 years in nurseries in Limburg, Netherlands participated in the “The Vegetable Box” programme. The last group was randomly divided into three groups: vegetables with a reward, vegetables without a reward, and a control group without either. Those in the first two groups tasted several vegetables every day for three months, except that children in the “reward” group got a fun non-food reward, such as a sticker, immediately afterward. Knowledge of vegetables was measured at the beginning and end of the study: the researchers showed 14 different types of vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) to each child and asked how many they could accurately name. In addition, their willingness to taste each of these vegetables was also measured.
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At the beginning and end of the study, the children had the opportunity to taste six types of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, radishes, and broccoli) while the researchers calculated how much they would like to taste. In the initial test in the control group, the children could identify about 8 vegetables and after the test, this number increased to about 10. For the other two groups, in the preliminary test, the children could identify about 9 vegetables and then 11 of them. As for willingness to try vegetables, it was a maximum score of 12 (kids tasted bites of six different vegetables). During the preliminary testing, they were willing to try about 5-6 vegetables in all groups. But at the end of the study, this rate decreased in the control group, remained unchanged in the group of children who did not receive a reward and rose to 7 in those who did receive a reward.
Thus, the scientific team Introducing vegetables regularly to young children in nurseries greatly increases their ability to learn about different vegetables. But it also seems that rewarding young children for tasting vegetables increases their desire to try different vegetables.. In her conclusions, she insists on the importance of the type of reward given to children being fun, but not food, such as sweets, risking an opposite effect. It should be noted that, as the “Eat and Move” program reminds us, it is also up to the parents to set an example in this field. In fact, eating is contagious pleasure and children tend to reproduce the behaviors they observe. “By putting more vegetables on the family menu, including brothers and sisters, we are showing (and telling) our child that we love them. A way to motivate everyone.”, recommends the latter.