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Hiding Veggies in Kids’ Foods is Effective, Not Deceptive

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—It might seem sneaky, but adding vegetables to your kids’ favorite foods increases their vegetable intake without them even knowing it. According to research at Penn State, preschool children consumed nearly twice as many vegetables and 11 percent fewer calories over the course of a day when pureed vegetables were added to their favorite foods.

For the study, the researchers served vegetable-enhanced entrées to 39 children between the ages of 3 and 6 on three separate days. They tested three familiar foods—zucchini bread for breakfast, pasta with a tomato-based sauce for lunch and chicken noodle casserole for dinner. The team modified the standard recipes for these foods by adding a variety of puréed vegetables to reduce the calories in the entrées by 15 percent and 25 percent.

"We incorporated several vegetables into the dishes, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes and squash," said Maureen Spill, a post-doctoral fellow in nutritional sciences and the study's lead author. "We were pleased to find that the children found the vegetable-enhanced versions to be equally acceptable to the standard recipes."

According to Spill, the children ate the same weight of food regardless of the vegetable content of the entrées. And when they ate the vegetable-enhanced entrées as opposed to the standard-recipe entrées, their daily vegetable intake nearly doubled while their calorie intake decreased by 11 percent. The team's findings are online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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