Want your child to eat their vegetables? Try smiling at them

·2-min read
AGE Fotostock

Nearly all parents will have waged battles with their pre-schoolers over eating vegetables.

But instead of sitting and watching a little one push their plate away or refuse to touch a food they don't like, researchers have now encouraged adults to take a more "influential" role in their kids' mealtimes.

Psychologists from Aston University have reported that children who watch adults eat a green vegetable with positive facial expressions went on to taste and consume more than double the amount of that vegetable.

"One explanation for the beneficial effect of positive facial expressions whilst eating could be that conveying food enjoyment gives the observer information about the safety and palatability of food," said PhD researcher Katie Edwards.

For the study, the team recruited over 100 U.K. children aged between four and six and played them one of three videos.

In two of the videos, the children were shown unfamiliar adults eating raw broccoli with either a positive or a neutral facial expression. The third video, used as a control, was not food-related.

The researchers then assessed the children's willingness to try raw broccoli, and found that the kids who were exposed to video clips of adults enjoying eating broccoli had more tastes of, and ate, on average, more than twice as much of the food in comparison with the kids in the control group.

"Raw broccoli was novel for most participants. Thus, children may have eaten more broccoli after watching adults enjoy eating it, because they believed it was enjoyable to eat," Edwards continued, adding that she was surprised to see that smiling while eating green vegetables can encourage children to taste and eat more of that vegetable.

"Further work is needed to determine whether a single exposure (to adults enjoying broccoli) is sufficient and whether these effects are sustained over time."

Full study results have been published in the journal Appetite.

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