MANNHEIM, Germany — How do you get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? A new study finds parents simply need to extend dinner time by a few more minutes to boost their children’s nutrition.
On average, children consumed an additional 100 grams of fruits and vegetables, which is roughly equivalent to one of the five recommended daily servings, the study reports. The researchers indicate that when children spent an average of 30 minutes at the table, as opposed to just 20 minutes, they ate “significantly more” fruits and vegetables.
“This outcome has practical importance for public health because one additional daily portion of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of cardiometabolic disease by 6 to 7 percent,” says Professor Jutta Mata from the University of Mannheim, in a media release. “For such an effect, a sufficient quantity of fruits and vegetables must be available on the table – bite-sized pieces are best.”
The study involved 50 parent-child pairs. The children, an equal mix of boys and girls, had an average age of eight, while the parents’ average age was 43. They were served a traditional German meal comprising sliced bread, cold cuts, cheese, and fruits and vegetables cut into bite-sized portions.
“The duration of the meal is one of the central components of a family meal which parents can vary to improve the diet of their children. We had already found hints of this relation in a meta-analysis on studies looking at the qualitative components of healthy family meals,” says Professor Ralph Hertwig, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Interestingly, the study also reveals that extended meal durations didn’t result in children eating more bread, cold cuts, or desserts. The researchers hypothesize that the allure of bite-sized fruits and vegetables might be due to their ease of consumption.
The research is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
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South West News Servicer writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.