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All Health and Nutrition Bites


Fruits and vegetables are good for your heart
Several years ago I reported on a study that looked at the effects of eating fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin C on the markers of inflammation in the blood that signal an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other conditions (Bite 5/5/06 ).

Fruits and vegetables are good for your... bones?
In light of the health risks presented by osteoporosis, researchers in Cambridge, England sought to determine whether fruits and veggies could help prevent bone loss (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(6):1420-8). They recruited 5 groups of people to participate in their study: adolescent boys and girls, young women between 23 and 37, and older men and women between 60 and 83.

How to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables
As I noted last week, small children won't eat what they don't like, and vegetables are at the top of the list of things that small children don't like and won't eat. So it's probably no surprise that children don't get enough vegetables in their diet. As we found in last week's Health and Nutrition Bite, kids tend to eat about the same amount of food by weight, regardless of its caloric density (number of calories contained by weight). 


Health & Nutrition Bites

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How to get pre-schoolers to eat more vegetables

A few months ago I shared a study that illustrated one way to get kids to eat more vegetables: hide the vegetables in other foods by adding pureed vegetables to foods like zucchini bread, pasta with tomato sauce, and chicken noodle casserole. Since small children tend to eat the same amount of food by weight, this helped reduce the number of calories the children ate as well as significantly increasing their vegetable intake. Even better, the children in the study actually liked the vegetable-enhanced foods!

If you have children, however, I'm sure you're thinking that the idea of hiding vegetables in other foods is all very well, but strategies to help those kids eat more vegetables when they look like vegetables would be far more helpful. The good news is that researchers at The Pennsylvania State University have found at least one way to do just that (Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95(2):335-41).

They noted that when children are presented with an entree portion that is twice the size of their usual portion of that entree, they tend to eat as much as 40% more of it. On the other hand, increasing the amounts of vegetables served with a meal does mean that children eat more of the vegetables, but that increase isn't nearly as significant as with the entree. Would controlling the size of the entree encourage children to eat more of the side dishes presented with the entree?

Once per week for six weeks, 17 children between the ages of 3 and 6 were presented with the following lunch meal: macaroni and cheese served with unsweetened apple sauce, green beans with butter, a whole-wheat roll and milk. The only difference between the six occasions was the portion size of the macaroni and cheese, which ranged from 100 grams to 400 grams. The size of the side dishes remained the same, regardless of how much macaroni and cheese the children received.

The researchers were able to measure how much of the side dishes the children ate relative to how much macaroni and cheese the children were presented with and how much of that entree they ate. They found that not only did the children eat more of the mac and cheese when the portions were larger, as they expected, but the children ate correspondingly less of the side dishes. When the entree was the smallest, the children ate far more of the vegetables and fruit presented with the meal.

What this means for you

This seems to be a good way to make the fact that kids eat about the same amount by weight work for you. The two smallest portions of the macaroni and cheese entree, 100 and 160 grams, represent age-appropriate serving sizes for children between 3 and 6. Limit your child's entree portion to reasonable amounts and serve more vegetables and fruit with the meal - you'll be increasing their vegetable and fruit intake while helping them maintain an appropriate body weight. Discuss your child's caloric needs with your pediatrician if you are concerned about their weight.

First posted: January 25, 2012