KIDS
August 17, 2010

More Fun With Fruits and Vegetables

Ways to get your kids to feel good about eating foods that are good for them. Really.

If you're tired of your child rejecting all that is good and healthy, you might want to try adding some fun, social activities to meal time. A new study from Mahidol University in Bangkok found that having kids take part in fun activities with fruits and veggies greatly increased the amount of healthy foods the kids consumed.

Activities included things like learning about planting seeds and gardening, playing games about the names of fruits and veggies, watching puppet shows, singing songs, washing the foods, and helping prepare the healthy foods.

According to the study, kids in Thailand eat only about one serving of fruits and vegetables per day, which is 70% less than what's recommended. The research team, led by Chutima Sirikulchayanonta, had kindergarteners take part in an eight-week course that involved fun learning opportunities for the kids. Activities included things like learning about planting seeds and gardening, playing games about the names of fruits and veggies, watching puppet shows, singing songs, washing the foods, and helping prepare the healthy foods.

Sirikulchayanonta says in the journal's news release, "[w]e got the children planting vegetable seeds, taking part in fruit- and vegetable-tasting parties, cooking vegetable soup, and watching Popeye cartoons. We also sent letters to parents with tips on encouraging their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, and teachers sat with children at lunch to role model healthy eating."

Did the courses actually work? After completing the sessions, the kids ate twice the amount of vegetables than they had before, and about 50% more fruit. They also ate more types of vegetables after completing the course (the types of fruits they ate didn't change, but that may be because they ate more to begin with).

The authors write that it's important to get kids involved in the process and let them learn through observation: "role models and social support for eating [fruits and vegetables] from family, teachers and peers are major factors in encouraging [fruits and vegetable] consumption" in kids, they say. Watching other kids eat healthy foods is also a good way to go. Because so much of how kids learn is from watching others, both old and young, and imitating what they see, it's important to set a good example for them to pick up on.

So if you're having a difficult time encouraging your children to eat healthy foods, it may be worthwhile to mix up the routine, add some new activities, and not force the issue. If kids have fun learning about fruits and veggies – and watching you do the same – chances are he or she will pick up on it, though it may take a little time.

The study was published in the June 2010 issue of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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