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News and Insight

Free resources launched to help children eat more vegetables

The See & Eat project, funded by European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food, has launched a new website, featuring a range of evidence-based activities and 24 eBooks in multiple languages, to help parents and carers encourage their young children to eat a greater variety of vegetables.  

The See & Eat project is being led by Professor Carmel Houston-Price at the University of Reading and supported by partners including the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). Following a successful initial launch late in 2019, the new See & Eat website will enable more families across Europe to access the eBooks, which are now available in English, Italian, Finnish, Polish, Dutch and French, as well as a range of new evidence-based activities to help children try new vegetables.

The See & Eat resources have been developed based on research showing that visual familiarity in the form of picture books is an effective way to increase a child’s willingness to try and liking of vegetables. The project aims to deliver these familiarisation-based resources in a way that is both effective and easily accessible to families. 

Dr Natalie Masento, a collaborator on the project at the University of Reading, said: “Vegetables can be particularly difficult to introduce into young children’s diets as they’re less sweet than fruit and can often be rejected when they’re first offered. It has been shown, however, that children’s acceptance of vegetables can be boosted purely through increasing visual familiarity, and therefore our project’s aim is to build on this research, while developing a series of accessible resources to help parents and carers introduce more vegetables to their children. With the launch of the new website, we hope more parents [and carers] from across Europe will find the eBooks easier to access and will enjoy the new evidence-based activities we have developed.”

New free activities which can be accessed on the website include: a flash card game where children are asked to match pictures to the names of vegetables; VeggieSense, a guess-the-vegetable activity to encourage children to explore vegetables through their sense of sight, touch and smell; instructions on how to grow your own cress; and shopping lists to involve children when choosing vegetables during the weekly shop. 

Each profiling a different vegetable, the 24 See & Eat eBooks are all interactive and can be viewed and personalised, using audio, video and pictures, through the Our Story 2 app. The app is free to download and available for both tablets and smartphones via the Apple and Android app stores. 

Helena Gibson-Moore, Nutrition Scientist, BNF, explains the importance of including a variety of vegetables in a child’s diet: “Encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age will help children make healthier choices as they get older, therefore it’s key to introduce lots of vegetables early on. Eating a variety of vegetables is important as different types and colours contain varying combinations of essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre, which our bodies need to stay healthy. Trying a wide range of different vegetables introduces children to an array of various tastes and textures and can be an opportunity to include vegetables as snacks and in different dishes from salads and soups to curries and pasta bakes.”

Alongside the launch of the new website, the See & Eat project team is currently conducting a study to understand whether extra interactivity and personalisation through eBooks, such as adding photos or videos of shopping for, preparing or eating vegetables, can support children to become even more receptive to new vegetables. The study covers a range of nationalities and languages, with results due to be launched in 2021.

The eBooks and resources can be accessed for free here: www.seeandeat.org

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