Up to about 2 years old, most children accept new foods, although it may take several tries to get used to them. Then, and sometimes for several years, many children become more “difficult”. It is therefore not uncommon for some of them to shy away from food families, especially vegetables. It is therefore necessary to make him change his mind by experimenting with different vegetables and in different forms: raw, cooked, in salads, in chewable sticks … au gratin. But for the more reluctant children, a team of researchers from Maastricht University unveiled at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht, the Netherlands (May 4-7), a trick that could very well help many parents. Their study reveals that 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 risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, this good habit acquired from childhood is very often preserved and reproduced in adulthood. But, as many parents know, young children often don’t like seeing green vegetables on their plate. “ It is important to start eating vegetables at an early age. explains researcher Britt van Belkom. ” We know from previous research that children typically have to try a new vegetable eight to ten times before they like it. So we investigated whether repeatedly asking them 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 willingness to try different ones”
To carry out this study, 598 children between the ages of 1 and 4 enrolled in crèches in Limburg, the Netherlands, participated in the “The Vegetable Box” program. The latter were randomly assigned to three groups: vegetables with a reward, vegetables without a reward, and a control group with neither. Those in the first two groups tasted different vegetables every day for three months, except that the children in the “reward” group received a fun, non-food reward, such as a sticker, soon after. Vegetable knowledge was measured at the start and end of the study: the researchers showed 14 different vegetables (tomato, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) to each child and asked how many they could name. accurately . 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 were given the opportunity to taste morsels of six vegetables (tomato, cucumber, carrot, pepper, radish and cauliflower) while the researchers counted how many they were willing to taste. . In the pre-test in the control group, the children could identify about 8 vegetables and after the test, this figure increased to about 10. For the other two groups, in the pre-test, the children could identify about 9 vegetables and then 11 of them. As for the willingness to try vegetables, the maximum score was 12 (the children tasted two morsels of six different vegetables). During the pre-test, 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 increased to 7 in those who received one.
The scientific team then estimates that regularly offering vegetables to children in kindergartens greatly increases their ability to recognize various vegetables. But gratifying children for tasting vegetables also seems to increase their willingness to try different vegetables.. In his conclusions he insists on the importance that the kind of reward given to children should be fun, but not food, like sweets, at the risk of a counterproductive effect. It should be noted that, as the “Eat and Move” program reminds us, it is also up to parents to lead by example in this area. Eating, in fact, is a contagious pleasure and children tend to reproduce the behaviors they observe. “By putting more vegetables on the family menu, brothers and sisters included, we show (and say) our child that we like it. One way to motivate everyone. “, The latter recommends.