How to get your kids to eat more vegetables

When I was a kid, I never ate my vegetables.In my house, a balanced meal consisted of steak, white rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains--hey they're sort of a fruit, aren't they?

I don't remember very many times when something green touched my plate, except maybe the occasional canned peas on the side. Beyond the cultural roadblock, I was also a picky eater. Until a few years ago, I could name the fruits and vegetables I would eat on less than 10 fingers. Let's just say the list wasn't very long.

But now it turns out that adding a little bit of sugar water to veggies not only makes kids like them more--but can also change their attitude toward vegetables in the future, including liking unsweetened veggiesin the future.


In the study by the Arizona State University, psychology professor Elizabeth Capaldi points out that it kids need to eat a new food at least 10 times before they really start to like it, so trying more than once and not giving up is the best approach. She describes her technique:

One way to get a child to eat her veggies is to mix it with food she already likes—such as mixing peas in mashed potatoes. But an idea that is not as intuitive: sprinkle sugar on veggies like broccoli, and after about ten trials this way, the child should be able to eat the broccoli plain—and enjoy it.

Food & Wine writer A.J. Jacobs tried the technique on himself and found that he liked Brussels sprouts after a little while. Although adding sugar to vegetables can negate some of their positive effect, it seems that adding just a little sugar (or sugar water) a couple times can lead to kids eating veggies without the added sweetness later on.

I wish my parents had known this when I was younger. Maybe it would have led to me getting healthier earlier on in life. Either way, though, I'm glad that I know this technique now. I can use it as I keep trying new vegetables—and make sure I remember it for when my own (future) kids are being picky eaters.

What's your or the kids' least favorite vegetable? Are you going to try sweetening it up a bit to see if they'll like it better from then on?

Image Lisa Brewster/flickr