About The Buzz: Shrinking Your Kid’s Unhealthy Entrée Size Can Get Them to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables?

TheBUZZ: Shrinking your kid’s unhealthy entrée size can get them to eat more fruits and vegetables?

By serving a smaller portion of an unhealthy main entrée and larger portions of fruits and vegetable side dishes, children are more likely to consume their healthier, lower-calorie side dishes.


Having trouble getting your kid to eat more than pizza, mac & cheese, or peanut butter and jelly every day? Parents go to great lengths to come up with creative ways to get their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. So where do you start? Studies have shown kids learn primarily by example, so if you consume more fruits and vegetables, they may eventually be persuaded to do the same, learning what normal meals are supposed to look like. Also, having fruits and veggies readily available has been shown to increase consumption as well!

Feel like you’ve tried everything? New research suggests a surprisingly simple solution: Shrink entrée size and increase fruit and vegetable side dishes!


A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that serving smaller age-appropriate entrée portions to children 3 to 5 years of age increased the consumption of their fruit and vegetable side dishes. In the study, the sizes of a macaroni and cheese entrée changed, while children could consume as many green bean and applesauce side dishes as they wanted. The result? When the smallest entrée portions were served, kids ate 67% more applesauce and 275% more green beans!


We do know that decreasing the serving size of their favorite unhealthy entrées and increasing fruits and vegetables will increase the number of needed nutrients (and provide fewer unneeded calories). So, try some of our kid-friendly fruit and vegetable side dishes and remember to build your entrées around fruits and vegetables—maybe their favorite meals will become healthy!

Healthier Favorite Foods

      • Mac & Cheese: Mix half their mac & cheese with a vegetable or try our Crazy Curly Broccoli Bake instead!
      • Pizza: Create your own pizza with lots of fruits and veggies or try our Confetti Pizza.
      • Peanut Butter & Jelly: PB & … dried apricots, bananas, kiwi, or carrots instead! Try lots of different creations with a dipping bar—they will love experimenting with the different flavors!

Read More about Food Substitutions

Need More Tricks?

Remember … It may take a few tries before your kids will like a new food! So keep trying and keep up your enthusiasm!


Savage, J., J. Fisher, M. Marini, et al. “Serving smaller age-appropriate entrée portions to children aged 3–5 y increases fruit and vegetable intake and reduces energy density and energy intake at lunch,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012), 95(2), 335-341

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