A new study reveals that kid-friendly dips may help children eat their vegetables.

Parents try their best to persuade their children to eat better and have disguised vegetables in cheese sauce, peanut butter and more. Researchers have found that these tricks used by parents actually work and make kids eat even unpopular vegetables.

A recent study found that pre-school kids introduced to Brussels sprouts along with cream cheese spread on the vegetable were more likely to say that they enjoyed the sprouts and ate more, when compared to when they were served plain sprouts without a dip.

Researchers say that the strategy of pairing a new vegetable with something a person already likes - such as a dip - is known as associative conditioning, which makes kids eat more fruits and vegetables.

"This has the potential to change the eating habits of children, including eating more vegetables, and this in turn will affect childhood obesity," said Elizabeth Capaldi-Phillips, a psychologist at Arizona State University and lead author of the study.

As part of the study, parents of 29 children, from three to five years old, were asked to complete a survey about the views of their kids relating to 11 vegetables, including if they liked or disliked the vegetable, or had never tried a listed vegetable.

The study found that cauliflower and Brussels sprouts were amongst the vegetables that most children did not try. The researchers also selected cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to analyze children's preferences in the study.

The sampled kids were given either cauliflower or Brussels sprouts once a day for seven days. The kids ate in groups of five or six and were led by a researcher or a teacher. The researchers used boiled vegetables and served them either plain, with sweetened cream cheese or with unsweetened cream cheese. After seven days, the researchers served just plain vegetables to the kids.

The study revealed that children who were given Brussels sprouts with cream cheese during the 7-day examination period liked them significantly more later on than the children who did not get cream cheese.

Less than one in five kids who were given plain sprouts said they liked it, while around two-thirds of kids who got the vegetable with either type of cream cheese said they liked the vegetables.

Although previous studies found that kids need to try some new food about 8 to 10 times before they get used to the taste, the kids in the recent study ate new vegetables only seven times before they were served with plain vegetables.

The researchers say that such a flavor-pairing strategy may work not only for Brussels sprouts, but also for other vegetables and food. 

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Tags: Vegetables