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Surprising Science

Spiking Kids’ Food With Vegetables

Good news for parents: You can get your children to eat zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower and squash—and like them. Just don't mention that is what they are really eating. 

What’s the Latest Development?


New research out of Pennsylvania State University finds that children like eating vegetables as long as they don’t know they are eating vegetables. A research team created meals made partially from vegetable purée and took them to an area daycare center. “One day a week for three weeks, 40 children were randomly given regular meals, meals with three times as much vegetable content, or meals with four times as much vegetable content. The children were told to eat as much or as little as they wanted.”

What’s the Big Idea?

After eating the vegetable-enriched meals, the children were asked to rate the food as yucky, O.K. or yummy. To the surprise of parents the world over, more than 70 percent of the children rated the meals as O.K. or yummy. “The controversial aspect of this is that it’s deceptive,” said Maureen K. Spill, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State. “But it’s just another way of making recipes healthier. It’s still important to get children to learn what vegetables look and taste like.”


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