Want your kids to eat vegetables? Serve fewer salty snacks.

Here’s the logic. Research shows that:

  • Kids eat fewer vegetables when they drink sweetened beverages.
  • Kids drink more sweetened beverages when they eat salty snacks.

Therefore, if you serve fewer salty snacks, your kids will drink fewer sugary beverages and, presto, they’ll start eating more vegetables.

OK. It might not work that smoothly, but it’s something to consider the next time you hand your toddler a bag of Goldfish crackers and an apple juice.

I’ve written about the relationship between vegetable-eating and drinking sweetened beverages before.

Here’s a refresher: Even after consuming only a small amount of the sweetened drink, the children were relatively disinterested in eating vegetables. 

Read about this study in Water vs. Punch and Soda.

Now, an Australian team has found that kids are more likely to seek out sugary drinks when they eat salty foods. 

Two findings, one obvious and one not so obvious:

  • The more dietary salt a child has, the higher their fluid intake. (That’s the no-brainer.)
  • The more salt a child consumes, the greater their consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages.

Click here to read the article that recently appeared in Pediatrics.

Explanation 1

  • Eating salty food makes people thirsty.
  • Thirsty people drink more.
  • Thirsty people who are used to sugary beverages drink more sugary beverages.

Explanation 2

  • People who drink sugar sweetened beverages often eat other unhealthy foods. Think hamburger, fries and a soda. It’s a clustering effect.

Explanation 3

  • Kids who eat foods high in sugar, salt and fat—the basic “Child-friendly”  diet—end up seeking out these kinds foods in order to achieve a “flavor-hit.”  They’re going for the high!

I wrote about this in the post Toddler Used to Eat Vegetables.

Other things you should know about salt and sugary beverages from this study:

  • Salt intake increases with age.
  • Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increases with age.
  • 62% of Australian children consume sugar-sweetened beverages; 80% of American children do.
  • Children who consume more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day are 26% more likely to be overweight or obese (but only if the kids also aren’t exercising).

One more thing…the effects reported here are small, but… 

  • The researchers were only looking at the relationship between salty foods and sugary drinks. If they had looked at the whole diet, I believe they would have found the full effect of salty foods on eating habits.
  • Kids graduate from crackers to chips, and from juice to soda.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~