One trick to getting kids to like their vegetables is simply to keep offering them a variety of veggies, especially when they are younger than 1 year old, and at their most receptive, a new study suggests.
The results showed that the more frequently a particular vegetable was offered to children, the more they tended to like it. The researchers also found children ages 6 to 12 months were reported by their mothers as liking vegetables more than 2- and 3-year-olds.
The findings "suggest that offering a wider variety of vegetables and more frequently to [6- to 12-month olds] may help to promote vegetable liking and consumption in the long term," the researchers said.
The researchers also found children's liking of a vegetable was related to how often their mothers eat it. Children's enjoyment of vegetables was not related to preparation methods.
High fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk of developing diseases, including certain cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends people consume at least 400 grams (nearly 1 lb.) of fruits and vegetables every day. The U.S. government recommends people eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Previous studies have shown that eating vegetables often and consuming a variety of them early in childhood contribute to healthier dietary habits that often continue into adulthood, the researchers said.
In the new study, the researchers looked at about 250 preschool children in the U.K., Denmark and France. Mothers completed a survey providing information regarding the frequency with which children were offered various vegetables, and how much they liked them.
On average, children had been offered an average of 17 of the 36 vegetables that researchers asked about in the survey. None of the children had been introduced to all vegetables.
The most commonly consumed vegetable among the children was carrots, followed by broccoli, peas, sweet corn and cucumber.
The results also revealed some cultural differences in how mothers prepared vegetables. French mothers tended to puree or mash vegetables, and sometimes steam and stew them, rather than prepare them in other ways. Danish mothers were most likely to boil vegetables, or offer them to children in raw form, compared with other types of preparations. U.K. mothers were more likely to boil, steam or offer raw vegetables.
The study will be published in the December issue of the journal Appetite.