Kids More Inclined To Eat Veggies When Dip Is Included
July 9, 2013

Kids More Inclined To Eat Veggies When Dip Is Included

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

It's been well documented before that vegetables are good for adults and children alike. The low calories, fiber and nutrients found in these natural foods are not only critical to a healthy lifestyle, they're also a major factor in reducing obesity.

As any parent can attest, however, the difficulty is getting children to try new foods, especially if the parents aren't keen on eating these foods themselves.

A new study from Penn State now proves what many have suspected for years: Kids will eat more vegetables if they're dressed in a certain way. When paired with a flavored dip, kids were three times more likely to eat their veggies, even when they previously refused to eat the vegetables naked. This, says Jennifer S. Savage, associate director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State who conducted the study, could help parents get their kids to eat the vegetables they need. The results of this study can be found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"Less than 10 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds consume the USDA recommended daily servings of vegetables," said Savage in a statement issued by Penn State. "Even more striking is that over one-third of children consume no servings of vegetables on a typical day. We wanted to figure out a way to increase vegetable consumption."

In their tests, the children were three times more likely to turn their noses up to a vegetable when served alone. Yet when the same veggies were served with some sort of reduced-fat dip spiked with a flavor, they had no issue with the vegetables. The study even found kids were twice as likely to eat carrots, red peppers, squash and more when paired with a plain dip devoid of added flavor. Ideally, the children will grow up and learn to love the vegetables on their own instead of as a vehicle for a flavored, Miracle Whip dip, but Savage says starting them with the flavor could train them to choose these foods later.

"Repeated exposure is a way to get kids to like new foods," explained Savage. "This has been demonstrated in previous studies. But first you have to get them to taste the vegetable. Plus, the servings do not need to be huge -- the key may be to start by offering really small portions."

Savage and her team worked with a panel of 34 children, aged between three and five years-old. To start, they presented the kids with a series of vegetables to understand which they would eat alone and which they would refuse. After being fed small portions of carrots, cucumbers, celery, green beans, red peppers and yellow squash, the researchers asked the children to list how they liked the food. The kids were shown three cartoon faces representing how they may have felt after eating the vegetables, ranking them as either "yummy," "just ok," "or yucky."

Some of these children refused to eat these plain vegetables, and the researchers took note of this as well.

The children were then given a series of five Miracle Whip-based dips, including flavors such as plain, garlic, herb, pizza and ranch. Not surprisingly, pizza and ranch scored highest. The kids then got to try the veggies and dips together. Whereas only 31 percent of the children ranked a vegetable as yummy when tasted dry, 64 percent of them rated it highly when paired with a flavored dip. Alternatively, 18 percent of the three- to five-year-olds refused to eat the vegetables by themselves, while only six percent continued to refuse the vegetables after they had been immersed in dip.

"Just because a child refuses to taste a vegetable doesn't mean they don't like it," Savage said. "It's foreign -- the key is to try to get them to taste it in a positive light."