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Kids Will Eat Their Veggies If You Explain Why They Need To

Both explaining to kids why veggies are good for them and making a show of just how tasty those healthy offerings can be are effective strategies for getting kids to eat greens

Kids, it turns out, are not completely immune to logical explanations or adverse to eating vegetables. Combine these two things, new research indicates, and children are more likely to gamely down their greens. They may not start loving broccoli, but they’ll eat it for nutrition. ScienceDaily dishes

The researchers assigned some preschool classrooms to read nutrition books during snack time for about 3 months, while other classrooms were assigned to conduct snack time as usual. Later, the preschoolers were asked questions about nutrition.

The psychologists conducting the study hypothesized that even preschoolers can grasp the concept of nutrition. Explaining why it’s important to eat vegetables, the researchers reasoned, would play into children’s tendency to “want to understand why and how things work,” they told ScienceDaily. 

It worked. The kids assigned to read about nutrition ate twice as many snack time veggies as they had been—all of their own will. They also had gained a theoretical understanding of nutrition—that nutrients in food helped their bodies function. This second accomplishment was pretty unique:

When the conceptual program was pitted against a more conventional teaching strategy focused on the enjoyment of healthy eating and trying new foods, the results showed that both interventions led to increased vegetable consumption. Yet, the children in the conceptual program showed more knowledge about nutrition and a greater overall increase in vegetable consumption.

So perhaps the best strategy for convincing picky kids to dig into their lima beans and brussels sprouts is a two-pronged attack: explain to them why those veggies need to get in their stomachs and make sure to demonstrate just how tasty those healthy offerings can be. 

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Sweet Sound of…Vegetables? 
Radish Pods and Other Multi-Tasking Vegetables 

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