It is well known that portions sizes in the United States have increased tremendously throughout the years, but what about increasing portion sizes as a way to promote increased fruit and vegetable intake among children? It may just a work.
A recent study published in the March edition of Obesity examined just that (1). The study took 43 boys and girls ages 5 and 6 and fed them dinner once a week for two weeks. Each dinner consisted of a pasta dish with tomato sauce, milk and varying portion sizes of carrots, broccoli, and unsweetened applesauce. At each meal the size of the pasta dish remained the same, but the portion size of the vegetables and fruit served were doubled between visits. At the meal in which the portion size of the fruit and vegetables was increased, the children consumed 43 percent more of the fruit dish and less of the main entrée. This may be one way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and decrease their intake of more energy-dense foods.
Kids tend to be picky eaters so when preparing vegetables you need to get creative. In addition, it’s important to continue to expose them to various fruits and vegetables numerous times. The best time to introduce new fruits and vegetables is during meals they enjoy rather than having all new foods that are foreign to them. Consider having colorful salads with a dash their favorite salad dressing or melt some low-fat cheese on top of their broccoli. Incorporate vegetables into the meal itself instead of serving them separately or in the morning give them a yogurt parfait with fresh strawberries.
Starting a garden or getting kids involved with the preparation of their favorite fruits and vegetables also works to boost consumption of these foods. This doesn’t mean you have to smother vegetables in high-fat sauces and dressings or put sugar on fruit, but the more creative and tasty you make it, the more they’ll eat.
- Kral TV, Kabay AC, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Effects of doubling the portion size of fruit and vegetable side dishes on children’s intake at a meal. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Mar;18(3):521-7.