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May 31, 2014 06:54 PM EDT

Children Who Eat Vegetables 'Early And Often' Develop Healthy Eating Habits

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Offering vegetables to children when they are really young may encourage them to eat more of it compared to "offering novel vegetables to older children," according to a recent study Medical Xpress reported.

Researchers from the University of Leeds found that even fussy children are able to eat a bit more of a new vegetable each time they are offered it.

"For parents who wish to encourage healthy eating in their children, our research offers some valuable guidance," Professor Marion Hetherington, leader of the study, said in a statement. "If you want to encourage your children to eat vegetables, make sure you start early and often."

For the study, researchers gave artichoke puree to more than 300 children from three countries "aged from weaning age to 38 months," Medical Xpress reported.

Each child participant was given between five and 10 servings of at least 100g of the artichoke puree in one of three versions: basic; sweetened, with added sugar; or added energy, where vegetable oil was mixed into the puree.

They found that younger children consumed more artichoke than older children.

Researchers said this is because after 24 months children become reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods -- even those they previously liked. Among the study participants, four distinct groups emerged. Most children (40 percent) were "learners" who increased intake over time. Of the participants, 21 percent consumed more than 75 percent of what was offered each time. Those who ate less than 10g even by the fifth helping were classified as "non-eaters", amounting to 16 percent of the cohort, and the rest of the children, 23  percent of the group, were classified as "others" since their pattern of intake varied over time.

 Non-eaters, who tended to be older pre-school children, were the most fussy, the research found.

"You have to get beyond those facial expressions of what you think might be disgust, but are actually just shock," Hetherington said, according to KMBZ News. "...Be patient and be persistent, but don't give up after three tries."

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