Getting your little ones to eat their greens can be a daunting task. Without even a single taste, they’ve already labelled half the plate ‘icky’. But a recent study might have revealed how to make sure you’re not forced to throw out good food.
According to new research from the Future Consumer Lab, the way food is arranged on a plate might make kids more inclined to eat it. Serving style preferences changed according to gender and age.
Findings showed that girls aged 7 to 8 preferred ingredients to be divided while children aged between 12 and 14 prefer either components be mixed together or a combination of mixed and separates.
Scientists from the University of Copenhagen also suggest it could optimise meal programmes in schools.
Previous research found that serving fruit and vegetables in smaller portions and visual presentation makes kids more likely to eat them.
“As a researcher, I have anecdotally heard parents say that their children prefer to have their food served in a particular way, including in a specific order. But we do not have much evidence-based knowledge about how children sort and eat their food, which is very relevant when, for example, we want our children to eat more vegetables — or eat their food in general,” says Associate Professor Annemarie Olsen from the University of Copenhagen.
“At the same time, it would be nice to know whether there are big gains to be made just by arranging food on the plate in a certain way.”
Authors of the study gathered 100 schoolchildren, aged 7-8 and 12-14. The participants were asked to rank a list of photos of six different dishes served in three different styles.
The first style had the food presented separately so the components didn’t touch each other.
The second style had both separate ingredients and ingredients combined together.
The final style had all elements mixed together.
The results found that younger girls ( aged 7-8) preferred ingredients separate while boys the same age did not care for the arrangement of the food. Meanwhile, children aged between 12 and 14 preferred that their food be either mixed together or a combination of separate and mixed-together ingredients.
Ultimately, separated components seems to be the most favourable option. However, findings don’t explain their preferences.
“One suggestion could be that they believe that the different ingredients could contaminate each other. But it could also be that they prefer to eat the different elements in a certain order or that the clear delineation just provides a better overview,” continues Annemarie Olsen.
“The child can mix the food when the various elements of the food are separated on the plate, while the reverse is not possible.”
So next time you want to make sure they finish their dinner, be sure to keep everything apart!
This article originally appeared on Better Homes and Gardens