Healthy Eating and Fun
Getting your kindergartner to eat her veggies doesn’t have to be a chore. Fruit and vegetable tasting parties, positive role models, and kid-friendly cooking classes can help boost vegetable consumption in four- and five-year olds, according to the results of a new study published in the August 2010 issue of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Researchers at Mahidol University in Bangkok analyzed the kinds and amounts of fruits and veggies consumed by 26 kindergarten children before and after the study. During the eight week study, the children planted vegetable seeds, enjoyed fruit and vegetable tasting parties, and cooked vegetable soup. They even watched Popeye’s cartoons. Seeing the effects of spinach on Popeye’s muscles is powerful stuff! Throughout the study period, teachers sat with children at lunch and modeled healthy eating. The researchers also sent letters home to parents with tips on encouraging their kids to eat fruit and vegetables.
At the conclusion of the study, the scientists found that the children’s vegetable intake doubled. The types of vegetables the kids consumed doubled from two to four. Parents also reported their children talked about vegetables more often and seemed proud they had eaten them as a part of their school lunch. The researchers found no significant change in the kinds of fruit eaten by the children, but concluded that this was probably because the kids were already eating more fruit than vegetables at the start of the study.
The scientists theorized that sitting next to children and eating the same foods as they do makes children feel special. Tasting parties are an enjoyable way for children to compare tastes of fruit and vegetables. Research shows that if it’s not love at first bite, a child needs to try a particular fruit or vegetable five or six times before accepting it. When one child sees other kids eating a particular food, the child is more likely to eat it as well. There’s safety in numbers!
Involving children in age-appropriate food preparation activities, such as measuring, pouring and stirring helps them learn the names and colors of foods. It also familiarizes them with numbers and simple math concepts and helps improve hand-eye coordination. Best of all, when parents allow kids to help out in the kitchen, they’re making family memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.