A Spoonful of Peanut Butter Helps the Veggies Go Down

Study finds pairing good-tasting food with vegetables increases the amount of vegetables children will eat

By Jared Skowron, ND

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Reference

Johnston C, Palcic J, Tyler C, et al. Increasing vegetable intake in Mexican-American youth: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Nov;111(11):1657.

Design

Randomized, controlled trial

Participants

Seventy-eight Mexican-American 6th-grade students, 38 of whom were offered vegetables to eat during class, and 40 of whom were offered vegetables with peanut butter to eat in class

Study Treatments

Over a 4-month time period, students were offered vegetables in their weekly nutrition class. One group was allowed to pair their vegetables with peanut butter. The other group was only allowed to eat plain vegetables.

Outcome Measures

The consumption of vegetables and variety of vegetables eaten were compared in children who ate with and without a preferred taste (peanut butter).

Key Findings

Combining vegetables with a preferred taste significantly increased the consumption of vegetables. Pairing with a preferred taste also increased the variety of vegetables eaten.

Practice Implications

Vegetable intake in children is very low in the United States. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance studies indicate more than 75% of children do not eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (77.7% in 2009, 78.6% in 2007, 79.9% in 2005).1-3 Allowing children to pair a good-tasting food with vegetables increases the amount and variety of vegetables children will eat.

While the idea of a spoonful of sugar is not new, we must educate parents as to the quality of food we are using for pairing. Peanut butter was chosen in this study as a food that is nutrient-dense. Education should be pursued to help parents select the healthiest of pairing options (eg, peanut butter without corn syrup, hummus).

While the idea of a spoonful of sugar is not new, we must educate parents as to the quality of food we are using for pairing.

Another portion of our further education is based around this study’s note that “multiple exposures to vegetables were not effective in decreasing neophobic children’s aversion.” Children in the 6th grade already had neophobic vegetable aversions. Food preferences can be swayed early in life, and the earlier we help parents choose correct nutrition for their children, the more we can influence healthy choices and decrease children’s fear of fruits and vegetables.4

About the Author

Jared M. Skowron, ND, is author of the best-selling 100 Natural Remedies for Your Child, and Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics. He is faculty at University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and founder of their Pediatric and Autism Clinic. He cofounded and is current vice president of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

References

1. Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2009. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2010;59(5):1-142.
2. Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2007. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2008;57(4):1-131.
3. Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2005. J Sch Health. 2006;76(7):353-372.
4. Chernin A. The Effects of Food Marketing on Children’s Preferences: Testing the Moderating Roles of Age and Gender. Annals AAPSS. 2008;615(1):101-118.