Bribing kids to eat veggies works
A new study has found that bribing children is the best way to get them to eat vegetables.
Children who were rewarded for eating their greens over a fortnight ate far more salad long-term than their peers, say scientists - even when "payments" had been withdrawn.
But while stickers and praise both proved effective, lead author Dr Lucy Cooke, warned offering sweet desserts were counterproductive.
A team of researchers, led by Cooke from the University College London, studied 472 children aged between four and six years old who were drawn from a cross-section of society.
They were asked to taste a small piece of six different vegetables - a carrot, red pepper, sugar snap pea, cabbage, cucumber and celery. The child then rated how much they liked each one from one to six.
The fourth ranked vegetable became the target food and the youngsters were asked to eat as much of it as they liked.
The children were then offered some slices of their chosen green every day over the next fortnight.
Around 100 youngsters were allowed to choose a sticker if they ate their vegetable, another 100 received praised and a further 100 were just offered the green. The rest of the children acted as a control.
The scientists then assessed how much the children liked their vegetable and how much of it they were willing to eat without receiving any reward.
They found that all the children who had been repeatedly exposed to their vegetable liked it more than those who hadn`t.
"What happens is that as they become accustomed to the taste, they grow to like it," the Daily Mail quoted Cooke as telling the Mail Online.
"This also happens in older children and grownups. It is called the "exposure" effect and is very effective.
The reason for giving rewards is that some children will not taste new foods without a reward so we tried to find a type of reward that would make those children prepared to start tasting and thereby achieve the number of tastings necessary to change their preferences.``
However, the scientists were surprised to find those who had originally been praised or given a sticker were willing to eat far more of the vegetable one month later than the other children, even though they no longer received a reward.
By three months after the study, the former stickers group were willing to eat 58g - nearly twice the amount eaten by the control group. The former praise group consumed 44g, while those given no encouragement trailed on 35g.
The study has been published in the journal of Psychological Science.
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