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Children who are repeatedly exposed to vegetables they initially disliked, combined with rewards will increase their liking and intake of those vegetables.
That’s according to a new study, which tracked vegetable intake of 173 children, age 3 to 4, randomly assigned to one of three groups over a three-month period. In the first group, parents gave stickers as a reward each time their child sampled a disliked vegetable. The parents in the second group gave verbal praise only, and the third group, serving as the control group, gave no verbal praise or tangible reward.
The parents gave the disliked vegetable to their child 12 times per day. Researchers assessed vegetable intake and liking of the disliked vegetable during the study period, and at one- and three-month intervals.
The findings published in the January 2012 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed children who were given a sticker as a reward for taking just one bite of the vegetable significantly increased their intake of that vegetable and their liking of it compared to the group receiving just verbal praise. Increases in the intake and liking of the children in the verbal praise group were not significantly different from the control group.
“The results of this new study continue to show the importance of introducing a variety of fruits and vegetables to children at an early age to help establish healthy eating habits early,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation, the nonprofit entity in partnership with CDC behind the “Fruits & Veggies—More Matters” national public health initiative. “Adults are more likely to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100 percent juice, if they were exposed to them as children.”
The Fruits & Veggies—More Matters website provides inspiration, tips, information and other types of support to make eating fruits and veggies easy, fun and affordable. The website includes tools such as a recipe center; video center showing short clips on how to select, store and prepare different fruits and vegetables; and a fruit and vegetable nutrition database.
Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation is a non-profit fruit and vegetable education foundation that works to motivate people to eat more fruits and vegetables to improve public health.
PBH is also a member and co-chair with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, consisting of government agencies, non-profit organizations and industry working to collaboratively and synergistically achieve increased nationwide access and demand for all forms of fruits and vegetables for improved public health.