A nutrition expert has revealed why parents should not bribe their children to eat vegetables.
Sophia Komninou, a child nutrition expert at Swansea University, made the comments after a suggestion that parents should pay money into a child’s bank account if they eat their vegetables.
An American study last year found that giving primary school age children money encouraged them to eat up their greens for two months after the incentives were stopped, because they got into the habit of eating healthily.
The idea is that provided that youngsters can understand the transaction, they will learn to eat healthily, and to understand the value of money.
However, it was only one study and did not use a control group. And critics say that offering money or other rewards conveys the wrong message because children think that the food must really be awful if they are being given a reward for eating it.
Instead, Sophia suggests starting children as early as possible with vegetables by eating them while pregnant. She also says that it is vital to offer vegetables frequently, without any pressure to take them. However, she warns it can take some children up to 15 times to say ‘yes’ to a certain vegetable.
Another tip is not to hide vegetables among a meal. While adding carrots into a pasta sauce will have the effect of getting them to eat it, if they do not realise it is even there, they will never choose to eat that vegetable on their own. Children can also feel they have been deceived if they found out there was something in their food they did not know about until after they had eaten it.
She also says that it is important not to draw attention to particular food stuffs so that eating vegetables becomes the norm, rather than a big deal.