The First Plates Children's Restaurant in full swing
The First Plates Children's Restaurant in full swing

In a study of 1,000 parents and children aged 4-9, it has appeared that an emerging generation of adventurous young foodies, who are tucking into Brussels sprouts, spinach and cabbage.

Commissioned by Birds Eye to kick-off their Eat in Full Colour campaign, almost three quarters of the young children surveyed recognise the importance of eating vegetables because they are healthy; 45 per cent think they will make them stronger; and 22 per cent think they will make them smarter. 11 per cent think it is really ‘cool’ to eat veg.

The research also shows that children are more likely to try new food when they are at school or nursery (32 per cent) or at a friend’s house (18 per cent), suggesting that they might be open to experimenting with their taste buds when away from their everyday environment.

To test the theory, the frozen food brand opened a unique and colourful children’s-only restaurant experience, aimed to encourage less adventurous eaters to expand their palates by trying a rainbow of vegetable dishes. The restaurant saw over 60 children sampling an array of vibrant and tasty vegetable-based meals.

Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, Clinical Psychologist and star of Channel 4’s The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds said: “It is no surprise that children are becoming more adventurous with the vegetables they eat.

“Children learn through observation and are heavily influenced by what they see adults around them doing. We know that if parents have a varied diet and an adventurous approach to food then it’s likely to rub off on their children. If they see the people they trust eating a certain vegetable and enjoying it, they’re more likely to give it a go, so it’s vital that parents aim to add different coloured vegetables to the plates of the whole family.”

While this research is promising, there are still a significant proportion of parents who admit that their children can be fussy eaters so Dr Elizabeth Kilbey has pulled together her top three tips on how to encourage kids to eat more veg:

1. Variety is key

The texture of vegetables can sometimes be an issue for children. If they do not like the texture of one vegetable then they tend to lump all vegetables into the same category by assuming they won’t like them all. In reality, vegetables are so varied both in texture and taste so ensuring you give them the encouragement to try different options and also remind them that they can’t be sure they don’t like something, until they have actually tried it.

2. Mix up your eating environment

Parents are often very surprised at the things their children will do when they are not with them and that includes the range of food they will eat. Children are very influenced by the environment or context of what goes on around them and will often not want to stand out or be left out. So if their friends at nursery or on a playdate are eating something new, then they may be more likely to try it. Having a chat with the staff at your nursery or with other parents, can be a great way to get your children to try new vegetables that you can later introduce at home.

3. Consider the colour of vegetables

Children are strongly influenced by the look and smell of food and will make a decision on whether they like something just from how it looks, whereas adults want to know how it tastes before we decide if we like it. This means that children may associate certain coloured foods with tastes they don’t like.

Serving your children colours of vegetables that are familiar to them or they associate with foods they like could be easy wins. For example, if children like sweet potato, then offering it with other orange coloured veg like butternut squash is likely to encourage them to try it.

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