Hide veggies in food to up kids' intake

Preschool children consumed nearly twice as many vegetables and 46% fewer kilojoules over the course of a day when researchers Penn State added pureed vegetables to the children's favourite foods.

"Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and at the same time children are not eating the recommended amount of vegetables," said Barbara Rolls, holder of the Helen A.

Guthrie Chair in Nutritional Sciences. "Vegetables have been shown to help lower kilojoule intake. The problem is getting kids to eat enough vegetables."

In their study, the researchers served vegetable-enhanced entrées to 39 children between the ages of three and six on three separate days. They tested three familiar foods – zucchini bread for breakfast, pasta with a tomato-based sauce for lunch and chicken noodle casserole for dinner.

Sneaking veggies into kids' food

The team modified the standard recipes for these foods by adding a variety of puréed vegetables to reduce the kilojoules in the entrées by 63% and 105%

"We incorporated several vegetables into the dishes, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes and squash," said Maureen Spill, a post-doctoral fellow in nutritional sciences and the study's lead author.

 "We were pleased to find that the children found the vegetable-enhanced versions to be equally acceptable to the standard recipes."

According to Spill, the children ate the same weight of food regardless of the vegetable content of the entrées. And when they ate the vegetable-enhanced entrées as opposed to the standard-recipe entrées, their daily vegetable intake nearly doubled while their kilojoules intake decreased by 11%. The team's findings are online today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Rolls and Penn State colleagues Alexandria Blatt, a recent Ph.D. recipient and Liane Roe, a researcher, both in nutritional sciences, found similar results when they served vegetable-enhanced entrées to adults.

That work appeared in the April 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Why it's ok to hide veggies from kids

"Regarding children, some people argue that hiding vegetables in foods is deceptive and that doing so suggests that whole vegetables are not acceptable," said Rolls.

"But I don't agree. Parents modify recipes all the time. For example, it is well-accepted that applesauce can be used to replace oil in cake batter."

Spill noted that serving vegetables both within entrées and as side dishes is a great way to increase daily vegetable intake even more.

(EurekAlert, July 2011) 

Read more:

How to convert calories to kilojoules

Fruit & veggies: super foods

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