In the never-ending war against childhood obesity, researchers are trying to figure out the best way to instill healthy eating habits in young children. A new study published in the May edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that hungry children aged three to four who were given vegetable snacks prior to a meal were more likely to eat all their vegetables.
"We have shown that you can use portion size strategically to encourage children and adults to eat more of the foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories," said Barbara J. Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University.
Rolls and colleagues tested their findings by serving a lunch with or without a carrot appetizer to 51 daycare children at four different times and measured the amount of vegetables consumed. The children all received pasta, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce, and low-fat milk following a first course of "no carrots or 30g, 60g, or 90g of carrot." The children were allotted ten minutes to eat their veggie appetizer.
The results showed those who did not have any carrots to start ate only "23 grams of broccoli from the main course," however the children that were first served 30g of carrots ate nearly 50% more broccoli and those given 60g ate three times the amount of broccoli (63g) than those who had no carrots.
Maureen Spill, Penn State graduate student in nutrition and co-author, added, "The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they're hungry. Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable."
Full study, "Eating vegetables first: the use of portion size to increase vegetable intake in preschool children": http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/91/5/1237