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November 28, 2012 | 3 minute read

Want to Be More Thoughtful, Less Boring? Add a Veggie

Moms who want extra incentive to add vegetables to the family dinner take note: It may make your family think you’re a more thoughtful and better cook, at least according to moms, suggests a new study.

The study, which used an online survey, also found that broccoli, green beans and carrots top the list for the vegetables most commonly served at family meals. Broccoli was the moms’ favorite vegetable and according to them, it’s also the favorite of the oldest child: Corn or broccoli is the vegetable of choice for the youngest.

There’s plenty of health reasons to include vegetables with the family meal – with reducing the risk for weight gain and later cancer risk among them – but this study suggests it may also improve how the family perceives the chef and the meal’s tastiness.

The study was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Study researchers first used interviews from 22 people to develop a survey related to attitudes about serving and eating vegetables at meals. Then 500 mothers with at least two children living at home completed the online survey.

In one part, respondents read about a busy mother’s evening, during which she cooks up chicken and leftover spaghetti for the family dinner. For half the respondents, the scenario included the mother heating up and serving a bag of frozen green beans. When the mother added those beans, respondents were more likely to describe her as thoughtful and loving, and less likely to describe her as lazy, boring, and self-absorbed.

Another part of the survey asked the participants to rate the same four meals with and without vegetables. Not surprisingly, the mothers rated the meals with vegetables as more nutritious and complete than those without. But adding zucchini to the pasta and meatballs or other vegetables to the meals was also described as more tasty and loving compared to the veggie-free dinners.

As the authors note, the survey noted perceptions of how enjoyable the meal was, not actual taste ratings. But it may provide a new motivation for cooks to add veggies to the meal.

According to one study cited in the paper, only 23 percent of dinners in America include vegetables. That’s not so surprising, given that a 2010 government report found only a quarter of Americans ate vegetables three or more times per day.

Approximately three-quarters of the mothers in this survey said their oldest child had a favorite vegetable; only slightly less noted their youngest child had a favorite. This implies that kids can – and do – enjoy veggies, the authors write.

If you have a family favorite vegetable dish, please share.

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