About The Buzz: Flavor Pairing Gets Kids to Eat Veggies?

TheBUZZ Flavor pairing gets kids to eat veggies?


New research suggests that flavor pairing, serving veggies with favorite foods) encourages children to eat more veggies.


Children develop food preferences at an early age. While many children are drawn to certain foods, vegetables can be a different story. A good way to introduce children to veggies is to serve them with their favorite foods. Research has shown that children are more likely to develop a taste for veggies when they are offered with foods they know and like.


A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that pairing veggies with something a child already likes can be an effective way to get her/him to eat more vegetables. Working with preschoolers, researchers at Arizona State University introduced children ages 3-5 to Brussels sprouts served with cream cheese. The findings? The children were more likely to say that they liked the sprouts and ate more of them, even when the sprouts were served later without the cream cheese. According to the researchers of this study, such a flavor-pairing strategy can work, not only for Brussels sprouts, but for other bitter vegetables.*


If your child is a picky eater and doesn’t seem interested in trying veggies, combine them with her/his favorite foods. For example, try serving broccoli with a tasty, low-fat dip. Research has shown that offering a dip with vegetables increases veggie consumption in children by 80%. (Kids also like celery sticks paired with peanut butter!)

10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Veggies

  1. Don’t’ Give Up! Keep offering children vegetables, even if they don’t like them the first time. It could take up to 10 attempts before they start to eat a certain food.
  2. Be Creative. Serve vegetables in different ways – if your child won’t eat raw carrots, for example, change the texture by puréeing them to make a delicious soup.
  3. Hide Them. Sneak veggies like sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, and onions into foods to create healthier family favorites. Hide diced vegetables in meatloaf and burgers, put veggies on pizza or in spaghetti sauce, or use kale or spinach to add veggies to fruit smoothies.
  4. Kid-Friendly Recipes. Try some recipes that kids like and can help prep!
  5. Vegetable Garden. Children are more likely to try foods they have helped to plant and grow. How to Get Your Kids Involved in Gardening
  6. Shop & Cook Together. For quick and easy tips, check out our Top Ten Ways to Get Kids Involved in Healthy Cooking and Shopping.
  7. Veggies All Day. Instead of high-fat, sugary foods that contain empty calories, offer your child healthy veggie choices throughout the day, including school lunches and while eating on the go.
  8. Variety. Kids will eat more veggies if there is a variety to choose from.
  9. Make Veggies Fun! Select different vegetables and use cookie cutters to create cool shapes your kids are sure to love.
  10. Get Colorful. Offer veggies from each of the 5 color groups (red, green, yellow/orange, blue/purple and white) to help ensure that your kids eat a healthy variety of veggies that provides all the nutrients they need each day to grow and stay healthy.

As your child’s first teacher, it’s important to set a good example by eating plenty of vegetables yourself. But, it’s also important to be patient as your child experiments with different foods. Give her/him lots of opportunities to try veggies—use different flavor pairings, textures, and colors to introduce and reinforce veggie consumption at meals and snacks throughout the day. Your time will be well spent. You’ll help your children create a pattern of healthy food preferences that will last a lifetime.


* “Associative Conditioning Can Increase Liking for and Consumption of Brussels Sprouts in Children Aged 3 to 5 Years.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, January 21, 2014. Accessed March 3, 2014. View Abstract

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