The secret to getting children to eat their greens: Family meals and NOT bribery, threats or sitting in front of the TV are the best way to get youngsters to eat vegetables, study finds 

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  • Experts identify what increases and decreases what causes pickles in children under 10
  • Eating as a family and involving children in meal preparation can reduce fussy eating.
  • pressuring the child to eat and rewarding all the food causes fussy eating

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Mothers and fathers are notorious for having a hard time getting their kids to eat enough vegetables.

Now, a new scientific study from Australian experts suggests that the fewest and least effective parenting strategies are to ensure children meet five times a day.


Researchers reviewed 80 health industry studies identifying picky eating in children under the age of 10, mostly based on parental reports and recalls.

They found a more relaxed parenting style, eating together as a family and involving a child in meal preparation all reduced their chances of fussy eating.

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Conversely, forcing a child to eat, having a very strict parenting and giving rewards for eating, such as being able to watch TV, all made children overeaters.

New research is providing a better understanding of what affects fussy eaters, and what makes picky eating more likely to increase or decrease in children under the age of 10.

Top tips to help a fussy eater

– Set a good example: A family that eats together has better eating habits

– Schedule regular meal times: Regular meal times reduce stress levels

– Involve children in food preparation: a sense of familiarity and control can help

– Try one meal: A separate baby sitting encourages fussy eating

– Turn off the TV: focus on the food, not the screen

– Try to keep meal times calm and stress-free: everyone will have a better experience

– Eliminate rewards or bribes or punishments for fussy people


The study was conducted by researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), the University of South Australia and the University of Queensland, and was published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

He provides some of his top tips for parents of fussy eaters, including setting regular meal times, getting kids involved in meal preparation, and eliminating rewards, bribes, or punishments.

They also stress the importance of turning off the TV and banning any type of screen from the dining table – including smartphones.

“For parents who are finicky eaters, meal times can be especially stressful — family meals and a picky eater are no small feat,” said lead researcher and USC PhD student Line Chilman.

‘There are children in some families who turn their backs on any vegetable. Others are dealing with children who dislike certain textures or colors of food.

‘Some of these preferences are related to a child’s characteristics or personality, which are difficult to change, if at all. But there are other external factors that can help reduce fussy eating in children.

‘Eating together as a family, with siblings, and eating the same meals at regular times, all helped to reduce food cravings, as did introducing fussy toddlers to meals, Either by helping to choose the menu, or helping with food preparation.

‘Yet if fussy eaters were allowed to eat in front of the TV, or if they were rewarded for eating certain foods, these behaviors negatively affected picky children.’

Researchers in Australia claim to better understand fussy eaters in children

Researchers in Australia claim to better understand fussy eaters in children

Graphic from research paper showing factors that increase and decrease fussy eating in children

Graphic from research paper showing factors that increase and decrease fussy eating in children

What is a part of vegetarian?

A portion weighs 80 grams, which is roughly equal to:

– 1 whole root vegetable (carrots, parsnips, but not potatoes)

– 0.5 to 1 whole medium to large vegetable (tauba, leek, black pepper)

1 cereal bowl of lettuce leaves (salad, raw spinach)

Source: World Cancer Research Fund


In their study, the authors identify several characteristics of the typical fussy eater, including reduced food intake, a low preference for vegetables, rejection of new foods, preferring a limited variety of foods and foods based on texture. but includes refusal of food.

Typical behaviors of children identified as picky eaters included eating slow or prolonged meals, abstaining from food, and ‘observing foods’.

Interestingly, the picky eater ‘was often male, firstborn and underweight’, the authors claim, citing several different studies in their analysis.

As well as each child’s individual personality, stress – often caused by parental actions such as yelling – is another factor that may explain why children become fussy.

Above all, parents should completely avoid trying to force food into their children’s mouths, which can have the effect of putting them off certain foods for life.

Co-author Dr Ann said, “When you have a child who is a picky eater, it is very stressful for the parent or caregiver – they always question whether their child is getting enough nutrients. , whether or not getting enough food and often enough weight.” Kennedy-Behr at the University of South Australia.

‘Yet it is important to understand that being overly anxious or anxious can actually contribute to increased picky eating.

Eating together as a family, with siblings, and having the same meals at regular times all helped reduce food distraction

Eating together as a family, with siblings, and having the same meals at regular times all helped reduce food distraction

‘Everyone will benefit from avoiding being crossed and limiting any negativity at mealtimes.

‘Positive parenting, no matter how difficult it may be in some situations, is the best course of action for fussy people.’

Earlier in 2021, scientists at Penn State University reported that doubling the amount of vegetables on the dinner plate resulted in children eating 68 percent more greens.

In their tests, academics increased the amount of corn and broccoli on children’s plates served at meals from 60 to 120 grams, but kept the rest of the meal the same size.

Interestingly, adding butter and salt to the vegetables did not affect the children’s eating.


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