Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Timing is everything–getting your preschooler to eat veggies May 16, 2010

It’s been proven that consuming sugar begets the desire for more sugar. Apparently, the same is true for eating veggies!.

Barbara J. Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences reports, “We have shown that you can use portion size strategically to encourage children and adults to eat more of the foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories.”

Hmm, maybe there should be a plate of raw veggies placed on restaurant tables, instead of that ubiquitous bread basket–aka: tons of high-carb calories.

Barbara Rolls and her Penn State colleaguess served lunch to 51 children at a daycare center on four occasions and measured their vegetable intake. Children were provided with no carrots or  1 ounce, 2 ounces, or 3 ounces of carrots as the first course of their lunch.

The children had 10 minutes to eat the carrots, after which researchers served them pasta, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk.

They found that when preschool children received no first course of carrots, they consumed nearly 1 ounce of broccoli from the main course.

When the children received 1 ounce of carrots at the start of the meal, their broccoli intake rose by nearly 50 percent compared to having no carrots as a first course. But when the first course was increased to 2 ounces of carrots, average broccoli consumption nearly tripled to about 63 grams — or a third of the recommended vegetable intake for preschool children.

The extra carrots eaten at the start of lunch did not reduce the amount of broccoli eaten in the main course, but added to the total amount of vegetables consumed. The team’s findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“We gave the children carrots first without other competing foods,” explained Rolls. “When they are hungry at the start of the meal, it presents us with an opportunity to get them to eat more vegetables.”

According to Maureen Spill, graduate student in nutrition and study co-author, “The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they’re hungry.”

Spill also add, “Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable.”

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4 Responses to “Timing is everything–getting your preschooler to eat veggies”

  1. lamourdemere Says:

    Fascinating stuff, although I suspect nothing short of a miracle will get my toddler eating undisguised veggies. Toilet paper he will eat but veggies are a no no.

    • rjlacko Says:

      I hear you–when my youngest was a toddler he would nibble on anything from chalk, to cat hair and Legos. With repeated (and repeated and repeated) exposure to healthy foods, he made it through that phase. Well, about 90%, anyway. I hope, for your sake, that your son is just going through a phrase too!

  2. Tes Says:

    I like to chop up green vegetables so finely and add them to my baby meal. It’s true parent should set example by eating healthy for the kids. Thanks for sharing the information, it’s very helpful.

    • rjlacko Says:

      Good for you! All that chopping will certainly pay off. Think of it as hugging your child from the inside! Corny? Maybe, but feeding your child a nutritious diet is an excellent and long-lasting way of saying “I love you.”


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