Children's health and how they age.

Many parents find it a struggle to get their children to eat their veggies. Coaxing, wheedling and bargaining must all be employed to diminish the dreaded heap of broccoli. Most people will probably remember their own hated childhood vegetable, and the daily battle between parent and child to eat at least a few mouthfuls. New research from the McCormick Science Institute indicates that there is an easier way to get children to eat their greens.

It is common knowledge that many vegetables – especially celery and squash, according to the study - are particularly disliked by children. The study offers a simple solution for getting children to eat more vegetables: serve them with a dip.

The study suggests that by pairing vegetables with a flavorful dip children will eat more of them than if they are served plain or with a bland dip. It's a simple concept, but perhaps one to be taken seriously as it can have a tremendous impact on your child's health.

The main issue seems to be a mental block which children develop against eating vegetables. If children perceive a vegetable as something they dislike, they are less likely to try new vegetables or eat them without complaint. If they perceive vegetables as something new or something delicious, they will eat more. By presenting children with a tasty dip to accompany the vegetables, the snack becomes more exciting and, for the most part, children will offer up fewer complaints.

One experiment conducted by the researchers, headed by Jennifer Savage of Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research, offered 34 preschool-aged children vegetables without a dip, and vegetables alongside a low-fat dip. The results showed a marked increase in the number of children who liked vegetables with a dip. 64 percent of the children enjoyed the vegetables paired with the dip, whereas only 21 percent liked the vegetables on their own.

The results also showed that fewer children refused the vegetables when paired with the dip compared to when they were offered plain vegetables. While 18 percent would not eat plain vegetables, only 6 percent refused the vegetables in combination with a dip.

The benefit of this method is that, by adding a tasty dip, parents are not necessarily introducing negative elements into their children’s diet. The dip used in this experiment was a low fat option, and another similar experiment used a 3.5 tablespoon portion of dip containing only 50 calories, which was low in fat and sodium.

This second study used the vegetables squash and celery, two of the most commonly disliked vegetables. When paired with a dip, children ate about 10 grams more celery and 9 grams more squash than when they were offered squash and celery alone.

Children’s diets are often much poorer today than they used to be. Getting your children to like vegetables is the key to a healthier diet – ensuring children are open to accepting vegetables is half the battle. Making a vegetable snack an enjoyable experience rather than a daily fight is the best way to encourage children to eat more vegetables.

If you are worried about the health of your child, try serving a vegetable snack with a dip your child likes, preferably a healthy or low calorie option. Encouraging children to be open to liking new vegetables is important, too. If your child detests celery or carrots, give them a miss and try sliced red and yellow bell peppers or cucumber sticks as an alternative.

As long as there is no stigma attached to vegetables, it seems that there is less likelihood of reinforcing a child’s dislike. Marlene Schwarz, from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, emphasizes the importance of avoiding an anti-vegetable mentality in children. She suggests that getting children to like vegetables is more important than simply getting children to eat vegetables. Other research has used positive reinforcements such as stickers to encourage children to try vegetables.

Diet can make a huge difference in a child’s life. AgeMe is a kind of Aging Booth which shows how lifestyle factors such as obesity can alter people’s appearances as they get older. Making the necessary dietary changes at a young age will ensure that a healthy mentality is something your child grows up with!