What appears to be obvious has been deemed to be true by researchers: children are more likely to increase their fresh produce intake when given bigger portions of fruit and vegetables on their plate, a new study finds.
Academics from Pennsylvania State University trialled two regimes that aim to increase fruit and vegetable consumption amongst children.
In the first trial, the researchers doubled the number of produce typically served on a child’s plate, whilst the second one replaced other foods for fruit and vegetables, for example when adding more veggies, the same amount of pasta would be removed.
The team found that the first trial increased vegetable consumption by 24 per cent and fruit by 33 per cent.
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Their findings also revealed that children participating in the second programme ended up eating 41 per cent more veggies and 38 per cent more fruit compared to their normal produce consumption.
Chief author, Barba Rolls said: “When deciding what to feed kids, it’s easy to remember that half of the food should be fruits and vegetables.
“If you start seeing that you’re serving too much and have more waste, you could cut back the higher calorie-dense food while adding more produce.”
She added: “Experiment and have some fun trying different fruits and vegetables to see what they like and so you can serve meals with a sensitivity to their personal taste.”
According to the results, most of the children taking part in the study still failed to eat the suggested amount of vegetables for their age. However, the majority of the group reached the recommended target for fruit consumption.
Prior research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 60 per cent of kids do not consume the recommended amount of fruit and that 93 per cent do not eat the ‘correct’ amount of vegetables.
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Fellow academic Liane Roe said: “For most foods, kids will eat more when served larger portions, so we wanted to test whether increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables that are served over five days would increase intake.
“We also wondered whether substituting produce for other foods would increase intake more than simply adding extra fruits and veggies.”
More than 50 children, aged between three and five, took part in the experiment over a five-day period.
“We served the children all of their meals, snacks, and beverages for five consecutive days, and we weighed all the items we served, as well as the leftovers, to measure intake,” said Roe.
She added: “We sent home evening and morning snacks for the kids, but the majority of the meals were served in the childcare center.”
The research has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.