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Kids can be Tricked into Eating Vegetables

Update Date: Feb 08, 2014 11:50 AM EST

Vegetables are one of the few things that children never want to eat. Despite parents' complaints that they can never get their children to chow down on vegetables, a new study is reporting that children can definitely be tricked into eating these leafy greens. The researchers reported that using tricks such as mixing vegetables with cheese sauce and peanut butter work by making children used to eating these types of foods.

"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 this study, the research team recruited the parents of 29 children who were between the ages of three and five. The parents filled out a questionnaire that asked them about their children's attitudes toward 11 vegetables. Based on these answers, the researchers selected cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to experiment with because the majority of the children reported never having tried them.

In the experiment, the children were given one of the two vegetables to eat once per day for one week. The children ate their vegetable in a group of five or six that was headed by a researcher or a teacher. Both types of vegetables were served in three ways, which were boiled, boiled with unsweetened cream cheese and boiled with sweetened cream cheese. After the week of conditioning was up, all children were given the vegetables plain.

The researchers found that children who ate Brussels sprout with both kinds of cream cheese were more likely to eat plain Brussels sprouts. In the group that started off with plain Brussels sprouts, less than one in five of them reported liking the vegetable. In the other two groups, two-thirds of the children reported liking their vegetables. The children who reported liking their vegetables in general ate more vegetables when they were served plain after the week of conditioning was over. In the cauliflower group, the researchers found that the same amount of children reported liking the vegetable regardless of how it was served.

"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, a researcher at Arizona State University and the study's other author, said according to CBS News. "It's our job as parents, as educators to get them to accept new foods at this time," she wrote in an email.

The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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