Parents should not force their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, argue at mealtimes or use unhealthy food as bribes, experts have found.

The best way for parents to get their children to eat well is to eat fruit and vegetables in front of them, a study of 57 Australian preschoolers has found.

Encouraging them and repeatedly offering good food is also advised.

Having separate mealtimes, giving kids only the food they like and limiting their food choices are all linked to unhealthy eating.

Researcher Dr Georgie Russell from the University of Technology, Sydney said some parents do not buy or offer food their children won’t eat, and give them specially-tailored meals.

Dr Russell said children were better off eating the same food as their parents from age one.

“Parents can adapt or reduce the portion size, but eating the same food offers an opportunity for modelling good eating and exposure to fresh fruit and vegetables,” Dr Russell said.

“What parents eat in front of their children has a big impact on what children eat.

Children can need to be offered food a dozen times before they will taste it. What’s important is that kids are not pressured or coerced.”

Another way to get children to eat fruit and vegetables is to “bridge” the taste by including a favoured food like cheese or tomato sauce, she said.

“This can help children with a fear of new foods”.

“The general rule is that the parents provide, child decides. It’s important also not to offer any alternatives. Kids in Australia are unlikely to starve,” she said.

Sydney mother Georgia Leckie makes it a priority for her children to eat fruit and vegetables.

“If they see you eating them at a young age they are more inclined to try it,” Ms Leckie said.

“So when they get exposed to bad food at parties it doesn’t matter so much because they still have a taste for healthy food.”

“You have to make good food interesting, by adding sauces or mild spices. You’d be surprised by what kids will eat”.

The research was published in the latest Appetite journal.

Original article by Herald Sun

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