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Publication #FAR0830

Getting Children to Eat More Veggies1

Carol Church2

If you have a preschooler or young child in the house, chances are good that he or she isn’t eating enough vegetables. In fact, only 5%–10% of children between the ages of 4 and 8 eat the amount of vegetables daily that experts recommend (Fisher, Mennella, Hughes, Liu, Mendoza, & Patrick, 2012).

One reason children may not enjoy vegetables, especially cabbage-family vegetables like broccoli and collard greens, is that they are somewhat bitter. In fact, a high percentage of the population is especially genetically sensitive to the bitter flavors found in these types of vegetables (Fisher et al., 2012).

So what can parents do? One study published in a nutrition journal looked at whether the simple step of offering ranch dip with broccoli might cause preschoolers to eat more raw broccoli and enjoy it more. Over the course of 7 weeks, children were offered broccoli at snack time, either plain or with ranch dip. Among this group of children, about 70% were genetically sensitive to broccoli’s bitter flavors (Fisher et al., 2012).

All the children reported liking broccoli more after being repeatedly exposed to it at snack time twice a week. Interestingly, however, offering dip only seemed to help with children who were sensitive to the bitter taste of broccoli (Fisher et al, 2012).

It’s worth giving dips a try to see if they increase children’s acceptance of vegetables. Even low-fat dips can help. And don’t forget to encourage children to taste a wide variety of vegetables. Researchers have shown that children repeatedly exposed to different vegetables will like them more and to be more willing to try new ones (Fisher et al., 2012).

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Fisher, J. O., Mennella, J. A., Hughes, S. O., Liu, Y., Mendoza, P. M., & Patrick, H. (2012). Offering “dip” promotes intake of a moderately-liked raw vegetable among preschoolers with genetic sensitivity to bitterness. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112, 235-245. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.032



This document is FAR0830, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date April 24, 2012, as program 1925. Published on EDIS April 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.