Q. Why do kids refuse to eat vegies?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 17 January 2014.
Tagged: fussy eaters, healthy eating, healthy kids, kids, nutrition, vegetables

Q. Why do kids refuse to eat vegies?

A. Lots of reasons ranging from the colour (green means 'yuk' to many kids), texture, as well as their strong, distinctive taste. If your family dinners are a battle zone over vegetables, then you'll be heartened to discover another plausble reason - family genetics! New research shows there may be a genetic reason for this dislike of the humble vegetable.

Taste sensitivity

The discovery of a gene linked to sensitivity to bitter flavours has sparked US researchers to compare the types of vegetables kids eat with their genetic taste profile. Approximately 70 per cent of people are "tasters" of bitter flavour. They notice bitterness immediately and find it unpalatable. Kids are no different.

In a recent study (see below), a group of pre-schoolers was divided into tasters and non-tasters of bitter flavour and were observed whilst making free choices from a variety of vegetables. The non-tasters ate almost double the amount of vegetables the tasters did, largely because of their greater intake of the bitter vegetables (such as broccoli, olives, cucumber and cabbage). In other words, the non-tasters didn't notice the bitterness so they ate happily.

Put another way - comparing the two groups, less than 10 percent of the non-tasters ate NO vegetables at all compared to over 30 percent of the tasters.

This explains why some kids "eat anything" while others just won't be tempted.

As a parent, if you're tired of the nightly dinner fights over vegies, the researchers suggest you add extras to your vegetables to reduce their obvious bitterness such as:

  • Serve with a cheese sauce or white sauce
  • Add a splash of olive oil or butter
  • Top with grated cheese or toasted almonds
  • Use a little salad dressing

Finally don't overboil them until they're soft and mushy. No one likes eating mush - keep them tender but still crunchy.

Reference: Bell KI & Tepper BJ. Short-term vegetable intake by young children classified by 6-n-propylthoiuracil bitter-taste phenotype. Amer J Clin Nutr 2006 84: 245-251

Image courtesy of Matt Preston via photopincc

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.