Infants who are offered a vegetable early in life are more likely to eat it than older children who are first exposed to the vegetable later on, according to research from the University of Leeds. Picky eaters are able to eat more of a vegetable each time they are offered it. Moreover, the study revealed that vegetables do not have to be hidden in other foods for kids to eat them. More from ScienceDaily:
In the study, which was funded by the EU, the research team gave artichoke puree to 332 children from three countries aged from weaning age to 38 months. During the experiment each child was given between five and 10 servings of at least 100g of the artichoke puree in one of three versions: basic; sweetened, with added sugar; or added energy, where vegetable oil was mixed into the puree.
There was also little difference in the amounts eaten over time between those who were fed basic puree and those who ate the sweetened puree, which suggests that making vegetables sweeter does not make a significant difference to the amount children eat.
Younger children consumed more artichoke than older children. This is because after 24 months children become reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods -- even those they previously liked. Among the children, four distinct groups emerged. Most children (40%) were "learners" who increased intake over time. Of the group, 21% consumed more than 75% of what was offered each time and they were called "plate-clearers." Those who ate less than 10g even by the fifth helping were classified as "non-eaters," amounting to 16% of the cohort, and the remainder were classified as "others" (23%) since their pattern of intake varied over time. Non-eaters, who tended to be older pre-school children, were the most fussy, the research found.
Globe artichoke was chosen as the sample vegetable because, as part of the research, parents were surveyed and artichoke was one of the least-offered vegetables. NHS guidelines are to start weaning children onto solid foods at six months.
The research has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.