The secret to teaching your kids to love vegetables
Want to encourage your child to love veggies? It might be easier than you think.
Babies who consumed either breast milk or formula followed by rice mixed with vegetable puree ate nearly half as many vegetables again as babies who were just given milk followed by baby rice.
Puree helps kids make smooth transition to vegetables
Professor Marion Hetherington, of the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds, led the study. She said: “We took inspiration from French mothers, as previous studies in this area have shown that they often add vegetable cooking water to their infants’ milk to help introduce them to eating vegetables at weaning. For years, French mums have shown that getting their children to eat vegetables early is child’s play.”
In the project, 36 mothers with babies aged from six months were split into two groups. One group was given plain milk for 12 consecutive days followed by plain rice for 12 consecutive days.
The other group was given milk with added vegetable puree for 12 days followed by rice with vegetable puree for 12 more days.
After this, both groups were given vegetable puree for 11 consecutive days, and this is where the difference in intake was observed.
Vegetables were given in a rotation, with carrots, green beans, spinach and broccoli used. Carrots were by far the most popular vegetable among the infants, being much more readily eaten than green beans, spinach or broccoli.
Gradual introduction is key to get kids to love vegetables
Professor Hetherington says, “What this study shows is that by doing a relatively simple thing, like adding vegetable puree to milk and then to baby rice, children eat vegetables more readily. Vegetables tend to be bitter, so a gradual introduction is an easy way to let children get used to them.
“Breast milk contains flavors carried from the maternal diet to the infants, so it is important for mums to eat a variety of vegetables and to maintain a healthy diet, too.”
British National Health Service guidelines advise to start weaning children on to solid foods at around six months. During the study, parents were given the option of either bottle-feeding or spoon-feeding the mixture to their babies.
Professor Hetherington is part of the Human Appetite Research Unit (HARU) at the University of Leeds. Her research in the HARU Lifespan group involves characterizing appetite expression from the early years of life to the end of life. In particular the group is interested in the development of food preferences in early life, the expression of hunger and satiety cues in infancy and how mothers respond to these.
Hetherington adds, “This was a small sample size, but it is important to note that we are focussing more and more on the first 1000 days of life as evidence is increasing that these are particularly important for later health and the development of healthy eating habits.”