“How to get our child to eat broccoli?!” is a question that many vegan parents must have asked themselves. The results of an unusual study conducted in the USA suggest the right decision that will help save nerves, strength – and, most importantly, improve the health of the child with the help of good nutrition.
New York scientists, led by Arizona State University psychologist Elizabeth Capaldi-Philips, have conducted an unusual experiment, according to Reuters news agency. He had only one goal – to find out in what way it is best and most likely to teach children 3-5 to eat tasteless, but healthy food.
The scientists selected a focus group of 29 children. They were first given a list of 11 typical vegetables, and asked to mark the most unpalatable—or the ones they didn’t even want to try. Brussels sprouts and cauliflower turned out to be the undisputed leaders of this “hit parade”. So we managed to find out which vegetables are the most unloved in children.
Then came the most interesting part: to figure out how, without threats and hunger strikes, to get children to eat “tasteless” food – which many of them have never tried at all! Looking ahead, let’s say that scientists succeeded in this – and even more: they figured out how to make a third of children fall in love with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower! Parents of children of this age will agree that such a “feat”, at least, deserves respect.
Scientists divided the children into groups of 5-6 people, each of which had to “bite” into the green ball under the guidance of a psychologist or teacher. How to feed children what they do not like ?! Finally, the experimenters guessed that if we offer the kids, along with an unfamiliar vegetable with a bad correspondence reputation, something familiar, tasty – and maybe sweet! – things will go much better.
Indeed, the recipe with two types of dressing gave the best results: from a simple processed cheese and a sweet processed cheese. The experimenters prepared boiled Brussels sprouts and cauliflower (an equally unattractive choice for children!), and offered them two types of sauce: cheesy and sweet cheesy. The results were simply stunning: during the week, most of the children conscientiously ate the hated “green heads” with melted cheese, and cauliflower in this version generally went with a bang, with both types of cheese.
The control group of children who were offered boiled Brussels sprouts and cauliflower without dressing continued to quietly hate these healthy vegetables (only an average of 1 in 10 children ate them). However, two-thirds of the children who were offered to “sweeten life” with sauce actively ate vegetables, and in the experiment they even reported that they liked such food.
The results inspired the scientists to continue the experiment, already … without the sauce! Unbelievable, but true: those children who had previously liked vegetables with sauces, ate them without complaints already in their pure form. (Those who did not like vegetables even with sauce did not eat them without it). Again, parents of toddlers will appreciate such an achievement!
The American experiment set a kind of record for the effectiveness of habit formation in preschoolers. While it was previously established by psychologists that a child of 3-5 years old needs to be offered unfamiliar food from 8 to 10 times in order for it to become habitual, this experiment disproved this fact: already in a week, i.e. in seven attempts, the team of tricksters managed to teach children to eat “strange” and bitter cabbage in its pure form, without additional dressing! After all, this is the goal: without burdening the stomach of children with all kinds of sauces and ketchups that mask the taste of food, feed them with wholesome, natural food.
Most importantly, such an interesting approach (psychologically speaking, connecting a “couple” – an attractive product – to the first undesirable one) is naturally suitable not only for cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, but for any healthy, but not very attractive food that we want teach our young children.
“Eating habits are formed in children at an early age,” said Devin Vader, another researcher at Arizona State University, commenting on the results of the study. “At the same time, small children are very picky! It is all the more important for parents to develop healthy eating habits that will last for the future. This is our duty as parents or educators.”