Do you know the commercial where the kids go crazy-happy dancing and cavorting in a carnival of carrot sticks and broccoli stalks? Pools of creamy ranch dressing, cauliflower popcorn, and overflowing plates of salad greens send the message that kids LOVE vegetables. But do they?
One of the biggest battles between parents and our pesky toddlers is getting them to eat their veggies (and getting them to stay in bed. and to not wipe their noses on our sleeves in public). How many times do we have to say, “Eat your vegetables!”? Even though we often know we “shouldn’t,” we try hiding veggies in muffins or pancakes, use them as bribes to “earn” dessert, or sometimes, just give up all together.
Well, ranch dressing may be on to something. A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that kids eat more veggies when they’re served with a dip. Three times as many veggies to be precise. I’d say that’s significant, considering 33% of children eat zero vegetables in a day, and less than 10% actually eat the recommended number of servings of 1 1/2 to 2 cups a day. The researchers studied kids ages 3-5, serving them a series of vegetables by themselves: carrots, cucumber, red pepper, squash, celery, and green beans. Then they asked the kids if the veggies were “yummy,” “just okay,” or “yucky.” The researchers then compared their answers for each of the veggies when they were served with one of 5 different reduced-fat dips. One dip was plain while the others were flavored with spices: ranch, pizza, garlic, and herb, the ranch and pizza being all around favorites.
64% of kids found a vegetable served with dip to be “yummy,” as opposed to 31% liking it when it was served alone. I’m not sure if this should come as surprise to anyone. Who wouldn’t want a big scoop of dip for a snack? It hardly matters what’s holding it. Could be a potato chip; could be a fork; could be a stalk of broccoli. The point is, it’s getting young kids to actually taste the veggies. Serving carrot sticks with a big heap of pizza flavored dip may not be the best choice in the world, but if it teaches kids that eating a carrot isn’t going to kill them, it goes down as a win in my book. Maybe one day they’ll willingly eat a carrot without choking it down or slathering it in dip.
One of the ways to get kids to eat veggies is to continue to offer them. It takes repeated exposure and many tastings before a child may want to eat a particular food. This sounds like a good way to me to go about exposing kids to veggies!