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Rewards encourage toddlers to try vegetables, research suggests

By Rachel Lawlervegetables

Toddlers are more likely to eat vegetables if they are rewarded for trying them, according to new research presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands offered 598 children at nurseries in Limburg a range of vegetables each day, offering some of the children non-food rewards such as stickers or toys in return for trying vegetables.

Children’s ability to recognise different vegetables and their willingness to eat them were tested both with and without rewards.

Children’s knowledge of different vegetables increased in both groups but the willingness to try the vegetables only increased in the group that was offered rewards.

Fun rewards
Researcher Britt van Belkom from the university’s Youth, Food and Health programme, said: “We know from previous research that young children typically have to try a new vegetable eight to 10 times before they like it.

“And so we looked at whether repeatedly asking children to try some vegetables would make them more willing to eat their greens. We were also interested in whether providing a fun reward would make a difference.

“Regularly offering vegetables to toddlers at day care centres significantly increases their ability to recognise various vegetables. But rewarding toddlers for tasting vegetables appear to also increase their willingness to try different vegetables.”

However, she added: “The type of reward is, however, very important – it should be fun but not food.”