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Eating veggies for life

Baby Steps

Wednesday, February 12, 2014    

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It is an old trick used by desperate parents world over.

Now, scientists say that adding condiments such as ketchup and cheese sauce to vegetables can help develop a child's taste for greens later in life.

A study found that children introduced to Brussels sprouts with cream cheese were more likely to eat them and say they liked them - even when they were later served plain.

"This has the potential to change the eating habits of children, including eating more vegetables, and this in turn will affect childhood obesity," said Elizabeth Capaldi-Phillips, a psychologist at Arizona State University and lead author of the study.

For the study, the parents of 29 children between the ages of three and five years old filled out a survey about the children's views of 11 vegetables, including whether they liked or disliked them.

Many of the children had not tried cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, so they were selected as the ones to gauge children's preferences.

The children were given either cauliflower or Brussels sprouts once a day for seven days, and ate in a group of five or six children that was led by a researcher or teacher.

The vegetables were all boiled and then were either served plain, with unsweetened cream cheese or with sweetened cream cheese.

After this conditioning period, the children were given the vegetables plain.

The researchers found that children given Brussels sprouts with cream cheese during conditioning liked them significantly more than those given plain sprouts.

Less than one in five of the youngsters given plain sprouts said they liked the vegetable, whereas about two-thirds of those who got sprouts with either type of cream cheese said they liked the vegetables.

After the conditioning period, when children were given the plain vegetables, those who had previously said they liked Brussels sprouts ate more of them than children who had expressed dislike.

Although previous research has found children need to try some new foods eight to 10 times before they get used to the taste, the children in the study tried the new vegetables only seven times before they would eat them plain, the authors point out.

Such a flavour-pairing strategy could work, not only for Brussels sprouts, but other vegetables and food, they suggest.

"Children develop food preferences at a young age, yet tend to be really picky at this age, so it's important to sustain healthy habits which will persist into adulthood," Devina Wadhera, also a researcher at Arizona State University and the study's other author said.

"It's our job as parents, as educators to get them to accept new foods at this time," she said.

— Daily Mail





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