Every parent will know it can be a tough task to get children to eat their greens - but new research suggests simply adding more vegetables to meals could be the answer.
A new study from Penn State University found that doubling the amount of corn and broccoli served at a meal - from 60 to 120 grams - meant children ate 68 per cent more of the veggies, or an additional 21 grams.
The increase in vegetable consumption alone brought kids more than one tenth of the way towards their recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, according to Hanim Diktas, a Penn State graduate student in nutritional sciences who worked on the study.
"The increase we observed is equal to about one third of a serving or 12 per cent of the daily recommended intake for young children," she said. "Using this strategy may be useful to parents, caregivers and teachers who are trying to encourage kids to eat the recommended amount of vegetables throughout the day."
Barbara Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State, said the findings, published in the journal Appetite, should inform a wider strategy to increase kids' vegetable consumption.
"It's important to serve your kids a lot of vegetables, but it's also important to serve them ones they like because they have to compete with the other foods on the plate," Rolls said. "Parents can ease into this by gradually exposing kids to new vegetables, cooking them in a way their child enjoys, and experimenting with different flavours and seasonings as you familiarise them."
According to the researchers, the majority of children in the U.S. don't eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables, with larger servings a useful way of boosting eating habits - as kids often rated their veg as tasting "ok" but gravitated towards other food groups if portions of greens were smaller in comparison.
Surprisingly, however, they found that lacing vegetables with butter and salt had little effect on whether the children ate more - although they suggested this could still be a good way of seasoning less familiar plant-based foods.