How To Get Kids To Eat Their Vegetables, According To Science

Photo by Peter Thoeny.

My oldest child will only eat one vegetable: carrots. (It used to be broccoli, but he's switched.) His little brother will only eat corn. Since veggies are good for kids, it would be great if we knew some foolproof way of getting kids to eat them. Science doesn't have solid answers, but it does give us some clues.

The scientists at the Cochrane Collaboration recently reviewed the evidence for different interventions that aimed to increase kids' fruit and vegetable intake. They only considered studies where some kids got the veggie-boosting scheme while others didn't, and where the researchers actually measured what kids ate.

There is good and bad news from this. The bad news is that nothing stood out as a surefire way to eat veggies. Even the studies that found a positive result were kind of iffy, which the Cochrane authors describe as "very low quality" evidence. These results may well get overturned with more research. But so far, these are the best we've got. Here are some of the interventions that resulted in kids eating a tiny bit more of their veggies:

Meanwhile, educating parents about nutrition didn't result in their children eating more fruits or vegetables, so just because you understand healthy eating doesn't mean your child will be on board with the veggies you're offering.

Only one study tested whether educating the kids themselves about nutrition helped them eat more of the healthy stuff. The researchers taught five and six-year-olds about MyPyramid for Kids (now replaced by MyPlate for Kids) and as a result they ate slightly more leafy vegetables and root vegetables. (These were the vegetables that the kids were already eating at the start of the study, so perhaps it just made them more enthusiastic about the healthy foods they already liked.) Without any similar studies to compare this one to, though, it's hard to know if this approach always results in kids eating more veggies.

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Comments

    My 3.5yo ate everything when she was a baby, even stole peas from our plates, now the only vegetable she will eat is the pickle from a maccas burger (or if you want to be technical occasionally french fries or potato chips [eg smiths] as theyare kinda like a vegetable just with all the goodness extracted), though she is good with fruits.

    My 18month old would and still will eat almost any vegatable but unfortunately giving her broccoli/cauliflower and similar gives her intense gas pains at night, same with fruit, she will eat pretty much anything and LOVES apples, but apples give her the same gas problems, poor kid.

    Its a pity there is nothing in that research that will help an obstinate fussy eater, i'm not quite at the stage to let her starve til she does, but man i'm close.

    Last edited 05/10/17 5:19 pm

      As someone who is an "obstinate fussy eater" the sit there until you finish it thing doesn't work. I can still remember being 7 and sitting there for 5 hours refusing to eat my veggies

        Yeah, my 3.5yo would rather starve than eat something she didn't want to, even if she ate it the other day. So yeah i wouldn't force her like that.

    If you could just make vegetables taste like bacon...

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