Breaking News: Kids Don’t Like to Eat Vegetables


Excellent news! We have new research on whether kids like to eat vegetables:

The Agriculture Department rolled out new requirements in the 2012 school year that mandated that children who were taking part in the federal lunch program choose either a fruit or vegetable with their meals.

….”The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This will come as a surprise to exactly zero parents. You can (usually) make your kids eat vegetables if you refuse to let them leave the table until they do, but that’s what it takes. Ask my mother if you don’t believe me.1

I’m not actually making fun of the researchers here. Sometimes seemingly obvious things turn out to be untrue. The only way to find out for sure is to check. And in fact, the study actually did produce interesting results:

Because they were forced to do it, children took fruits and vegetables — 29 percent more in fact. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables actually went down 13 percent after the mandate took effect and, worse, they were throwing away a distressing 56 percent more than before. The waste each child (or tray) was producing went from a quarter of a cup to more than a 39 percent of a cup each meal. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”

Yep: when kids were required to plonk fruits and vegetables onto their trays, average consumption went down from 0.51 cups to 0.45 cups. Apparently sticking it to the man becomes more attractive when kids are forced to do something.

In any case, the researchers kept a brave face, suggesting that eventually the mandates would work. We just need “other strategies” to get kids to like eating vegetables:

Because children prefer FVs in the form of 100% fruit juice or mixed dishes, such as pizza or lasagna, one should consider additional factors, such as the types of whole FVs offered and how the cafeteria staff prepares them. Cutting up vegetables and serving them with dip and slicing fruit, such as oranges and apples, can positively influence students’ FV selection and consumption by making FVs more accessible and appealing.

I dunno. Cutting up veggies and serving them with dip decidedly doesn’t make them taste anything like pizza or lasagna. I speak from decades of pizza-eating experience here. Anyway, parents have been trying to get their kids to eat their vegetables for thousands of years, and so far progress has been poor. I’m not sure what the answer is. Shock collars? DNA splicing? GMO veggies that taste like candy bars?

1Yeah, yeah, some kids actually like vegetables. Little bootlickers.