Two studies, same results: Serving water at meals and snacks makes kids more likely to eat vegetables!

Study 1:

  • Take a bunch of 3-5 year olds.
  • Offer the kids a snack of carrot sticks and slices of red pepper.
  • One day offer the children Hawaiian punch to drink with their snack.
  • Another day offer the kids some water with their snack.

What happened?

The children ate a larger portion of vegetables on the water day than on the Hawaiian Punch day.

And get this: the researchers noted that even after consuming only a small amount of the sweetened drink, the children were relatively disinterested in eating vegetables.

Study 2: Take a bunch of college students and ask them how well soda goes with pizza, fries and vegetables. Then, ask the students to say how well water goes with these same foods.

On a scale of 1-5 where food/drink pairings DO NOT GO WELL=1 and food/drink pairings GO WELL=5.

  • Raw vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks go well with:
    • Tap water or plain bottled water: Average score=4.15
    • A cola beverage: Average score=1.83
  •  Steamed vegetables, such as asparagus and broccoli, go well with:
    • Tap water or plain bottled water: Average score=3.20
    • A cola beverage: Average score= 1.93

In other words, if you’re drinking a cola beverage, you’re not going to think of eating vegetables.

Not surprisingly, the students thought that both French fries and pizza go well with soda: French fries average score=4.20, Pizza average score=4.17.

With water? French fries average score=2.86, Pizza average score=3.51.

Some explanations:

  • Sweet flavors may not “sit well” with the less sweet taste of the vegetables.  Or…
  • People come to expect certain food combinations like pizza with soda or punch.

There are so many reasons not to teach your kids the habit of drinking sweetened beverages.

(And, in my opinion, juice should also be on the list. Read Coke Beats Juice.)

  • Sugary soft drinks are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet.  We get more calories from sodas and sugary drinks than any other individual food, including cake, cookies, and pizza.  Read this New York Times article.
  • When taste preferences for sugar, salt and fat are developed early in life, the stage is set for diets high in calories and low in nutrients.   Some research even shows these foods can be addictive.  Read Are “Child-Friendly” Foods Really Gateway Drugs?

And now there’s one more reason: Your kids will eat more vegetables.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Cornwell, T. B. and A. R. McAlister. 2012. “Contingent Choice: Exploring the Relationship Between Sweetened Beverages and Vegetable Consumption.” Appetite  doi: