“Some kids like veggies and some don’t”—how many moms have said this when describing their picky eater’s preferences? Researchers are discovering that perhaps veggie consumption isn’t just a case of the veggie-lovers versus the veggie-haters, however, but more a case of nutrition education.
We can all agree that kids are like sponges; they absorb virtually everything that comes their way and they are avid learners. Researchers at Stanford University set out to see if they could encourage kids to eat more veggies by teaching them about the health benefits of doing so, rather than offering ultimatums (no dessert until you’ve eaten your peas!).
Their study, conducted over a three-month period and published in Psychological Science, took kids’ natural curiosity as a starting point and covered nutritional information in five storybooks aimed at preschoolers. The books tackled seemingly lofty topics such as:
- Food categories
- The importance of dietary variety
- Nutrients as bodily fuel
- Digestion and its functions
- The role of microscopic nutrients in health
Of course these topics were presented in an accessible and entertaining manner for preschoolers, but the focus was still on education. The hypothesis was that by learning more about why they should eat their veggies and what these foods did for their bodies, preschoolers would want to naturally make more veggie choices as their snacks. The focus of the research was on choice and helping to encourage children to make these healthy decisions. During snack time, one group of preschoolers read about nutrition in their storybooks while the control group carried on with snack time as usual….
And the results? The children actively learning about nutrition displayed an impressive understanding of the subject and more than doubled their snack time veggie intake by choice. The control group’s veggie intake remained about the same but the kids learning the why behind their choices saw a dramatic increase in veggie consumption during the study.
Researchers want to find out what this type of conceptual teaching does for kids’ veggie intake over the long-term, but the initial results are certainly promising for moms everywhere!
Source: “Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies. A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem,” Science Daily, July 2013.