The Finnish trick for getting children to eat enough vegetables and fruit

University researchers think they've unlocked the secret to making sure children get enough nutritious veggies, fruit and berries in their diets - good eating habits that will continue into adulthood.

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File picture of healthy vegetarian food / Credit: iStock

As any parent knows, it can be an uphill battle to get children to eat enough fruit and vegetables.

But researchers at the University of Eastern Finland think they’ve cracked the code – and all it takes is a positive example.

Children in Finland – and across Europe – don’t eat enough vegetables, fruit and berries even though the health and nutritions benefits of these foods is well known.

And since dietary habits continue from childhood to adulthood, nutritionists say the period of early childhood is critical for adopting a diet rich in greens.

But getting children to eat more of the right things takes two parents to get involved according to this new study.

File picture of strawberries / Credit: News Now Finland

Researchers found that a positive example from mothers was important to encourage children to eat more raw or cooked vegetables or fruit and berries. However, a positive example from fathers was most important when it came to eating veggies.

“This shows that teaching children to eat their greens is not something mothers should be doing alone. A positive example set by both parents is important, as is their encouragement of the child” explains Kaisa Kähkönen, a Researcher and Nutritionist from the University of Eastern Finland.

The new research shows dinner is the most important meal at home to teach children to eat more vegetables – when there are opportunities to serve veggies in different forms like in the main course, as a side dish or in a salad.

“Variation can be created by serving raw vegetables, such as the ever-popular cucumber and tomato, accompanied by cooked ones. In fact, many root vegetables, cabbages and squashes are best served cooked” says Kähkönen.

The study was carried out by the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland, and by researchers at the Universities of Jyväskylä and Turku.

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