Children do not necessarily eat the healthiest foods. US researchers have now investigated what makes them eat food they don't like. The biggest success was when children were repeatedly offered the same food and were told how good it would be for them.
Quinoa and lentils are not on the classic children's plate. Earlier studies have already shown that children are more willing to try new foods if they are offered to them more often. It also has a positive effect when their parents explain to them how delicious the food is and saying, for example: "This tastes really good."
Researchers combined both approaches for a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Eighty-seven children between the ages of three and six were given food they do not like for two weeks over a period of a month and a half - tomatoes, green peppers, lentils and quinoa.
Jane Lanigan, a researcher from Washington State University, Vancouver, USA, investigated what was the most likely to influence children's eating behavior. One of the two least liked foods was just offered again and again, the other was promoted as something healthy. So it was said that vegetables help, not to get sick. Lanigan emphasized that the sentences should address the children's goals while providing accurate nutritional information.
Both methods showed approximately the same effect after six weeks. Then the children were given a month rest and the researchers re-examined their eating habits. It comes out that the combined method had a much better effect: compared to the time before the break, the children ate about seven grams more of the previously unloved food, which was only served repeatedly. If the food had been additionally advertised, they even ate 14 grams more. The fact that the combination effects on the amount of food taken is explained with the fact that all children were perhaps initially a bit bored after weeks of preparing the same vegetables.
Whether they’re toddlers or in their teens, children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most. To encourage healthy eating habits, the challenge is to make nutritious choices appealing.