For that after-school snack, serving your child a platter filled with a variety of vegetables and/or fruit may help your young child eat more of these important foods than if you serve just one kind, suggests a new study.
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Because most American children don’t meet the recommendations for vegetables and fruit according to national food consumption surveys, finding ways to up amounts is important for kids’ weight and health.
In the study, researchers offered snacks to 61 children, aged 3-5, in their preschool classrooms over four weeks. On three days, one vegetable (grape tomatoes, cucumber slices or sweet pepper strips) was served. Single fruits (slices of apple, peach or pineapple) were also served on three separate days. Then the children were offered a platter with all three vegetables, and finally a platter with all three fruits. Kids were allowed to select as much as they wanted each time.
The children chose and ate about one-quarter cup more of the vegetables and fruit when offered the variety compared to when they were offered just one type. That’s about one-sixth of what they need each day.
To find out whether a child’s taste preference affected which vegetables and fruit they choose, the researchers asked children to rate each food. One week after the study, the kids tasted each of the foods from the study and chose one of three cartoon faces – expressing “yummy”, “okay”, or “yucky” – to indicate whether they liked the food or not.
For vegetables, it didn’t matter how many the kids rated as yummy or yucky, they all ate more when given the variety. The study authors suggest that having choices helps children eat a wider variety and gives them an opportunity to be exposed to different types of foods.
Today, one of eight kids is overweight or obese, which highlights the importance of helping your kids eat and like vegetables and fruit. (Today’s CRU features a new report finding the obesity rate slightly decreased among low-income preschoolers.)
AICR’s report and its continuous updates show that eating plenty of vegetables and fruit can help lower risk for several cancers, including mouth, stomach and esophageal. Filling up on these foods also can help you get to and stay a healthy weight, which is important because carrying too much body fat is a cause of seven cancers, including postmenopausal breast, colorectal and pancreatic
The AICR/Superkids Nutrition campaign Healthy Kids Today – Prevent Cancer Tomorrow toolkits are filled with recipes and fun activities can help you and your children make simple changes, like eating more veggies and fruit, and moving more for a healthier now and future.
How do you encourage your children to eat more vegetables and fruit?