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Children Choose But Don’t Eat Vegetables

An investigation by Wageningen University in the Netherlands suggests that in order to eat more vegetables, children must be able to choose between two options.

“Eat your salad, son,” is one of the many phrases constantly repeated by mothers, until they give up. However, according to a recent study, if mothers said instead: “Son, what do you prefer, carrots or beets?” the likelihood that your son will finally eat vegetables increases. One of the conclusions of the study entitled “Providing Alternatives and its Effect on Acceptance and Vegetable Consumption in Dutch Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” led by Professor Cees de Graaf,from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Wageningen Universityin the Netherlands.

The Right to Choose

Low vegetable consumption within children is something that can be observed almost everywhere in the world. Concerned about this situation in the Netherlands, researchers considered the possibility of encouraging children’s autonomy in choosing the vegetables they eat as a valuable strategy to increase the acceptance and consumption of this food group. To do this, they gathered 303 children between ages 4 and 6 and took them to a restaurant in order to compare whether offering their choice of a vegetable before or at dinner, or no choice, might alter the amount of vegetables actually eaten.

Children described by their parents as “reactive,” or constantly in conflict, ate about half the amount of vegetables when offered no choice, compared with the rest of the children. After dinner, 75% of the children who had been given the chance to select their vegetables said they felt “happy with that level of autonomy.”

Pediatricians recommend that children eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, preferably two fruits and three vegetables. If this is your goal, maybe it’s time to make your children part of the choice-making process. Take them with you to the supermarket and ask them which fruits or vegetables they prefer. This way, you’ll put an end to the ongoing battle against vegetables.


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