The Miracle Solution That Improves Kids' Eating Habits

New research shows what it takes to tempt kids to eat cauliflower. And peas...

Posted Mar 13, 2018

If you wish your teens ate more vegetables, do this: Cook the veggies with flavor. Yup. That's it. That's what it takes to tempt kids to eat their cauliflower. And their peas. And their broccoli...research shows.

In my opinion, especially as a former researcher, this little nugget comes from the Huh? We-need-researchers-to-tell-us-this? category of science. But given how much time we spend telling parents to steam vegetables for maximum nutrition, it's refreshing to see someone, anyone, examining the role of flavor in increasing vegetable consumption.

Here's the study:  Students in a rural high school were offered vegetables served two ways.

  1. Plain, with oil and salt.
  2. Seasoned with herbs and spices, including the same amount of oil and salt as in the plain version.

Then the kids were asked to identify which version of the vegetables they preferred. Surprised to learn the kids preferred the seasoned veggies? Me neither.

Source: Corepics/depositphotos

It's important to mention that the study was funded by the McCormick Science Institute, and McCormick sell herbs and spices. On one hand, then, this study joins the body of research which validates whatever the funder is funding. On the other hand, doesn't it make sense? Especially when we're talking about cafeteria food?

I've long argued that we have to make vegetables "competitive" with highly seasoned processed foods (Read, full of salt, sugar and fat.) Years ago, a parent told me, 

  • I did what you said and it worked! 
  • I replied, Terrific. What did I say?
  • Cook the spinach with garlic and olive oil. I did that and the girls loved it!

When the students in the spice study were asked what could be done to increase the amount of vegetables they ate at school, the top three answers were:

  • Make the vegetables taste better
  • Provide more variety
  • Use seasonings

So there you have it. Take a page out of the packaged food playbook and serve your veggies full of flavor. Quite simply, tasty food gets eaten.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~