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3 simple ways to tackle fussy eating problems in children

Posted:  Thursday, July 09, 2015

Are green leafy vegetables the unofficial villains in your household? Does the mere thought of your highly demanding child stop you from buying that broccoli from the vendor? Well fussy eating behaviour in children may soon be history if parents follow a combination of the 3 Rs; Repeated exposure to the problem food, Role playing by consuming it themselves and Rewarding children when they lick the problem food off the plate.

These were the findings of a new study conducted by European researchers and published in the journal Appetite. The study involved 115 children aged between 2 and 4 who were placed in 4 different groups and given the same vegetable to taste for 14 days. The children were split into 4 groups and each group was exposed to different combination of food interventions:

• Group 1 - repeated exposure

• Group 2 - role modelling and repeated exposure

• Group 3 - rewards and repeated exposure

• Group 4 - 'three Rs': role modelling, repeated exposure and rewards

At the end of the study the amount of the vegetable consumed by each child was measured.

The authors reported that children belonging to group 4 showed significantly increased consumption and liking to a vegetable they disliked. They ate an average of 4g of the vegetable, compared to 0.6g before the start of the investigation.

"Our research shows that a combination of repeatedly exposing children to vegetables, rewarding them for trying the food and modelling enjoying eating the vegetable yourself, can help to encourage children to taste and eventually like vegetables which they did not previously like eating. " said the researchers.

The researchers further added that eating behaviours have been shown to track throughout childhood and into adulthood. Hence it is vitally important that children are exposed to fruits and vegetables early on in life in order to form healthy eating habits that last well into adulthood.

Fussy eating behaviour is normally seen in children as they grow and recognise their preferences. However, restricted food intake translates to restricted nutrition for growth and development. Now thanks to the study, mothers blessed with extremely fussy children needn’t fret. They must simply follow the 3 R strategy so that their children develop a taste for the food eventually.

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