Time and time again headlines declare that vegetables are absolutely necessary to a healthy lifestyle. As parents, we get it. But what if your little one doesn’t like broccoli, green beans, squash, cucumbers, carrots, beets -ok, I’ll pass on that one too- corn, cauliflower, spinach or tomatoes? What if every time you attempt to smuggle a vegetable into your child’s meal world war three breaks out?
Well...there may be hope. Try a little dip (and tenderness). According to a small but optimistic study, kids that don’t normally like veggies messing up their perfectly good meal, will reevaluate that outlook and give vegetables a taste if they are presented with a bit of flavored dip.
The fact that the dip used during the study was low in fat, calories and sodium didn’t seem to matter.
The study was conducted at the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University.
Thirty-four preschoolers were asked to do a taste test of vegetables with and without the low-fat dip.
Not surprisingly, the kids liked the veggies better when they were served with dip. When the dip was flavored, kids liked the vegetables even more compared to plain dip or no dip at all.
What I find amazing is that thirty one percent of the little tykes liked the vegetables as is – nothing added. When the researchers added the dip though, a whopping sixty-four percent were thumbs up on the vegetables. There were of course, those children who wouldn’t budge even while others were smiling, dipping and exclaiming how tasty cauliflower can actually be. Six percent said no thanks to the dip and the vegetables while eighteen percent said absolutely no to the vegetables with no dip.
To see just how far kids were willing to go with the veggie and dip combo researchers did another study. This time they offered 27 preschoolers’ celery or squash – both notorious for being leaders in a preschooler’s yuck category. The kids basically picked at the unadorned squash or chopped celery. I suspect, knowing preschoolers, they spit it out - but there's nothing in the study about that.
When the flavored dip was added to the mix, the little ones ate a little more – about a quarter cup of the chopped celery and about 15 grams of squash. Once again, the dip won although it didn't make a huge difference.
Some people might say that if you were able to get preschoolers to eat chopped celery or squash at all, the test was a huge success.
Vegetables have a tough time competing with french-fries and fast foods particularly if they are rarely served. Sometimes you just have to get creative.
"It is a good idea to try to pair less preferred foods, like vegetables, particularly those that your child doesn't like so much, with something to give it a little more flavor," said Marlene Schwartz, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who was not involved in the study.
Experts note that the amount of the vegetables a preschooler eats is not as important, at this stage, as whether or not they are willing to try new foods and flavors and be open to liking them.
"If you can get preschoolers to see themselves as people who try a bunch of different vegetables and try them in different ways and like vegetables, then you can really reinforce that way of seeing themselves and that's going to help you in the long run," she said.
On the other hand, Schwartz said, if a child comes to identify himself as someone who doesn't like vegetables, "then you're really fighting an uphill battle."
Amen to that.
There are a couple of other veggie introduction tricks that have been somewhat successful. Pizza is usually a hit with kids (and adults) so many parents will add vegetables as a topping. You have a lot more control over the sodium and fat content and you can get your child involved by asking them which veggies they would like to put on the pizza. Then let them place the vegetables on the top of the pizza.
Letting children be participants in growing vegetable gardens seems to also get them excited about picking and eating what they have grown.
Some parents put vegetables in a blender and then add the smooth concoction to assorted foods they know their kids like, such as the infamous mac and cheese. Personally, I like vegetables to look like vegetables and for children to know that they are eating vegetables. It just seems more honest.
I like dip. So, perhaps I’ll give it a try and see if my little one will keep the broccoli in his mouth this time.
Source: Kerry Grens, http://news.yahoo.com/adding-dip-veggies-gets-kids-eat-more-174841524.html