Offering Children Vegetables at Breakfast Could Boost the Likelihood That They Grow to Like Them

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The practice could become routine if parents promote morning vegetable consumption while the children are still in a developmental stage of life.

Parents enjoy the idea of offering children vegetables at breakfast time, according to information gathered from parents who shared their experiences, which was published in Appetite. Young children do not have food-to-mealtime associations with food yet, so teaching them to eat vegetables early in the day can generally increase their entire vegetable consumption.

Image credit: See Less - stock.adobe.com

Image credit: See Less - stock.adobe.com

“A diet low in vegetables is problematic for children's health,” wrote authors in the paper.“Developing effective methods for increasing children's vegetable consumption from an early age is of global importance to reduce disease risk and improve public health.”

It’s known that increasing exposure to a food can train a child to enjoy eating that food. In this study, the investigators’ idea of offering a vegetable earlier in the day at breakfast—alongside offering the same quantities of vegetables throughout the day—is based around this concept of early-age exposure. The team hypothesizes that prompting vegetable consumption early in the day can effectively drive healthy eating patterns to support lifelong health and nutrition.

During this study, investigators evaluated the parents’ perspective on offering their children (aged 18 months to 4 years) vegetables at breakfast. The team conducted 18 interviews to ask about the parents' views and experiences with the process, along with their perception of how the child behaved when offered vegetables at breakfast.

Three themes emerged from these interviews: willingness to feed children vegetables at breakfast time, barriers to eating this way, and facilitators to promote vegetable consumption at breakfast.

Foremost, parents expressed that they are willing and open to the idea of giving their children vegetables at breakfast. This practice can facilitate a child’s familiarity with vegetables, increase their intake and enjoyment of vegetables, and can establish a healthy eating pattern that lasts.

However, vegetables are not associated with breakfast in the United Kingdom, where the study was conducted. This is a barrier to consumption, as these norms can influence food selection. Parents also faced barriers including time-constraints which can limit vegetable prep time, cost associated with buying more produce, children disliking the vegetables, and food waste.

It became clear that parents need to become more aware that they can offer vegetables at breakfast time, which requires a multi-angle approach, according to authors. Parents in the study suggested that public health campaigns promoting breakfast-time vegetable consumption should target children, parents, caregiving facilities, and pediatric health care providers. In addition, current public health campaigns can also be amended to improve awareness and normalize the habit, and parents can incorporate vegetables into their breakfasts, which the children can model their plate on.

“Such a behavior could be valuable for helping to shape children's healthy habits and behaviors around vegetable and breakfast consumption, which could be an effective way to help support increases in children's vegetable intake and thereby improve health and wellbeing,” wrote authors in the paper.

REFERENCE

McLeod CJ, Haycraft E. “A good way to start the day”: UK-based parents’ views about offering vegetables to children for breakfast. Appetite. (2024) Jan 30. Doi: 0.1016/j.appet.2024.107239

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