Want kids to eat vegetables? Grow your own!

Photo: shutterstock

Photo: shutterstock

Parents who want their kids to eat vegetables more often can try a new tactic. A study conducted at a school in New York indicates that there might be a higher chance of children eating vegetables when they have grown themselves. Growing vegetables at home can also be a fun way for families to spend time together and teach children responsibility.

The pilot study reviewed how kids selected vegetables to eat and what they wasted off their plates when school-grown salad greens were added to the cafeteria’s school lunch. It found that students headed to the salad bar when it contained produce grown by them. On average, the students in the study were four times more likely to take a salad in this case. In actual terms the growth was from 2% of students choosing salads to 10%. While that still leaves many students who did not pick salad, every little bit helps.

However, while more students choose to add salad to their plates, the amount of food wasted on the plate also increased. On average, students ate two-thirds of their salads. So even though four times as much salad went on the plates, salad consumption for the entire student body just doubled, from approximately 5 servings to 12 servings a day.

Since it was a pilot study, involving a total of 370 high school students were observed over three separate days, the sample size and duration of the study are quite small. A larger scale study would provide more convincing evidence of the effect. Additionally, the approach may have more impact if the students are younger. Primary school children can get a lot more excited about watching a plant grow, flower and give fruit than jaded high-schoolers.

However, while schools may want to wait for more evidence before committing themselves to this program, it can still be something parents can try at home. Even a few vegetables in a pot grown on a balcony can get children interested in what they’re eating.

“We see great promise with this research. The first hurdle in increasing vegetable consumption is simply getting kids to put them on their plate,” concluded co-author Drew Hanks of Ohio State University.

The lead author was Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design. The research was published in Acta Paediatrica.

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