Study: Start Early and Kids Will Eat Vegetables

Experts have found that the earlier children are introduced to vegetables, the more likely it is that they will adopt a healthy diet in the long run.

A study conducted at the University of Leeds in the UK proved that you really can teach children to eat their vegetables. The idea is to introduce a vegetable 5-10 times, and eventually even a very picky eater will begin to eat some of it.

An article, written by Jasmine Bailey, for North Carolina’s WSOC-TV, Charlotte, shows the benefits of the early start:

“A team from the University of Leeds gave artichoke puree to more than 330 children and it said that two in five of those learn to like the vegetable.” (Via BBC)

“They suggest it’s better to expose infants to different kinds of vegetables than to wait until they get older because they are more reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods.” (Via WCAU)

Artichokes were the vegetable of choice for the study because parents said that it was the vegetable they would be least likely to cook at home. Some of the veggie servings had nothing added; some were sweetened with sugar; or vegetable oil was added to some servings to provide extra taste.  It was discovered that masking the flavor of the puree was not necessary in order for the children to eat it.

The findings were:

  • Younger children ate more than older children.
  • 40% of children increased their intake of vegetables over a period of time.
  • 21% consumed at least 75% of what was offered each time they ate.
  • 16% were considered “non-eaters.”

An article by BBC News Health shared that Professor Marion Hetherington, study author from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at Leeds, offers some valuable guidance to parents who want to see their children eat a healthy diet:

“If you want to encourage your children to eat vegetables, make sure you start early and often.

“Even if your child is fussy or does not like veggies, our study shows that five to 10 exposures will do the trick.”

The UK’s National Health Service suggests that infants start eating solid foods at six months.

In a related article from SFGate, written by Judy Wilson,  a list of first vegetables for infants is given.

Squashes and potatoes are a great first choice, since they are easy to mash up to a safe consistency, and are pretty much liked by most.  Carrots and peas are good additions for the same reason and because the colors are so appealing.  Naturally, green beans make the list, as well.  An extra caveat to moms of infants, be careful to wash your baby’s vegetables to remove harmful chemicals, regardless of what promises are made on the can or packaging concerning the cleanliness of the item.