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Preventing Picky Eaters

How to turn kids into veggie lovers.

A child eating vegetables

Want to get your kids to stop putting up a fuss when you give them broccoli? Try the repeated-exposure method on those picky eaters. This was among the handful of strategies identified in a research review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study focused on ways to improve children’s liking of vegetables and subsequent vegetable intake up to the age of 5.

Frequently offering a single variety of vegetable or an assortment of types to kids was found to have the strongest evidence for effectively turning disliking into liking. Exposure to veggie flavors in utero and via breast milk (a good reason for pregnant women to eat plenty of vegetables); parental role-modeling (i.e., if parents eat their spinach at the dinner table, it’s more likely their offspring will, too); giving nonfood rewards; and reading from vegetable-themed storybooks also offered hope for getting picky eaters to welcome more veggies. Each option requires more research.

See also: Picky Eating Habits in Children

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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