Science Decides How to Teach Children to Eat Vegetables

My oldest child only eats one vegetable: carrots. (It used to be broccoli, but it has changed.) His little brother will only eat corn. Since vegetables are good for kids, it would be great if we knew some reliable way to get kids to eat them. Science doesn’t have hard answers, but it does give us some clues.

Scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration recently reviewed evidence of various interventions to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in children. They only looked at studies in which some children received a vegetable supplement and others did not, and where the researchers actually measured what the children ate.

There is both good and bad news from this. The bad news is, nothing stood out as a sure way to eat vegetables. Even the studies that showed a positive result were somewhat dubious, which the Cochrane authors describe as “very low quality” evidence. These results may well be contradicted by additional research. But for now, this is the best we have. Some of the interventions that resulted in children eating slightly more vegetables:

In the meantime, educating parents about nutrition hasn’t led their kids to eat more fruits or vegetables, so just because you understand healthy eating doesn’t mean your child will agree with the vegetables you offer.

Only one study tested whether teaching children to eat healthy foods helps them eat more healthy foods. The researchers told children aged five and six about MyPyramid for Kids (now replaced by MyPlate for Kids ), and as a result, they ate slightly more leafy vegetables and root vegetables. (These were vegetables that the children already ate at the start of the study, so perhaps they were just very enthusiastic about the healthy foods they already enjoyed.) However, without any similar studies to compare this to. it is difficult to know if this approach always leads to the fact that children eat more vegetables.


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