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July 2017

As kids we are told by our parents to always eat our fruits and veggies in order for us to grow big and strong. However, not every child finds eating broccoli delicious compared to the sweetness and juiciness of a strawberry. I remember that I too hated the taste of boiled vegetables, especially broccoli because it had no flavor.  It was plain and bitter. As I got older, my perspective of vegetables change dramatically.  Today, vegetables are my preferred food choice.

So why  do so many children neglect an essential food group from our daily intake?

I recently came across a study by Astrid A.M Poelman from Food Quality and Preference titled,  “Understanding and Changing Children’s Sensory acceptance for Vegetables.” The article explains the different factors that influence children’s tastes and food choices.  She presents that many dislike vegetables of a child’s ‘sensory acceptance.’  She also discusses helpful strategies for parents to use in creating acceptance and intake of vegetables. Astrid broke down this study by first explaining how fruits and vegetables play an important role in a healthy and varied diet. Most of us have heard that fruits and veggies help us grow and strong, but they serve a larger purpose in helping us reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and hypertension. As an adult, my perspective on fruits and veggies changed due to the fact that they provide a rich source of vitamins, mineral, and fibers that allow us to function with the right amount of energy. However, Astrid did identify some factors that influence children’s vegetable intake.

Factor of Influence:

  • Changes in Oral Cavity
  • Flavor/texture Properties
  • Culture
  • Mother’s Amniotic Fluid

In addition, early ages of development is a critical stage in a child’s life in learning to shape preference through experience. From personal experience growing up, vegetables have been a priority in my family; when it came to dinner time my father and I would bicker with one another because I refused to eat my greens. My mom’s method of cooking veggies was steaming them with no added flavor what so ever and that was the problem with these veggies is because the are truly bland. So how do we solve that? Astrid mentioned some useful strategies:

Strategies to include acceptance :

  • Choice offering
  • Hiding vegetables
  • Change product properties of veggies
  • Additional flavors
  • Preparation method
  • Colour

I believe the big deal breaker is flavor, texture and color that can help you incorporate major food group in a child’s meal. I lived in a Mexican household where seasoning was a main ingredient in many of our dishes, so as I got older my mother would find different ways to incorporate vegetables like sautéing and pureeing vegetables.  I believe that their are many alternatives to increasing the intake of vegetables in a child’s diet .  Every parent must find a few tricks to expanding their child’s vegetable intake. I think this study does a great job breaking down the mystery behind children’s thought process when they are introduced to different foods and what some helpful tips in increasing intake of veggies.

by Judy Zamora, POW! Intern