Children won”t eat their greens Stickers work better than “false” words of praiseSmall rewards help change children”s attitudes to foodVerbal praise not effective as youngsters see it as “insincere”
A study found youngsters who were offered small rewards were more inclined to eat vegetables
If you”re fighting a losing battle trying to convince your children to gobble up their greens, a simple solution might be at hand.
A study found that youngsters who were offered small rewards, such as stickers, for eating shunned foods were more inclined to change their attitude.
However verbal praise didn”t work in the majority of cases, as researchers said parents” words might have seemed “insincere”.
To test the theory 173 families were divided up into two groups, in one parents used stickers as a form of encouragement while verbal praise was implemented in another.
Findings revealed that three and four-year-olds who were given a sticker each time they took a “tiny taste” of a disliked vegetable, gradually changed their taste.
Whereas words of encouragement such as “Brilliant! You”re a great vegetable taster,” did not give the same results.
Lead researcher, Jane Wardle, from the University College London said: “We would recommend that parents considerusing small non-food rewards, given daily for tasting tiny pieces of the food — smaller than half a little finger nail.”
During the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, parents offered their child a taste of the “target” vegetable – which included carrots, celery, cucumber, red pepper, cabbage and sugar snap peas – every day for 12 days.
Over the period, the children who were rewarded with stickers gave higher ratings to previously disliked foods and in some cases even described them as “yummy”.
They also doubled their intake. going from an average of 5 grams at the start to around 10 grams by the end of the experience.
This turnaround seemed to last, and youngsters were still willing to eat more of the once-shunned ingredients three months later.
The NHS notes that children should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and as a rough guide one portion should fit in the palm of their hand.
Professor Wardle and her team highlighted that their results are controversial as previous studies have shown that rewards can backfire, causing children to lose interest in foods they already liked.