Parents could cure fussy eating in just three simple steps, a new study has suggested.

The study of 115 children aged between two and four, conducted by Aston and Loughborough Universities, found that by introducing the ‘three Rs’ – Repetition, Role Modelling and Rewards – during meal times, mums and dads could not only encourage their children to eat new vegetable, but actually like them too.

Researchers claim that the ‘three Rs’ dramatically increased both the amount of vegetables eaten by children and how much they enjoyed them.

The ‘three Rs’

According to the study, parents can help to cure fussy eating and change their child’s attitude to the food by following these three simple steps:

Step one: Repeatedly expose a child to a certain food (‘repetition’).

Step two: Eat it first and show the child how tasty it is (‘role modelling’).

Step three: Praising the child for trying it (‘rewards’), a parent can help positively change their child’s attitude to the food.

Food intervention

Commenting on the research, Dr Claire Farrow, of the Aston Research Centre for Child Health, said: “Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the main risk factors for global mortality. Eating more fruits and vegetables could prevent numerous cancers, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Children in the UK, however, do not eat enough of them – with only about 20% of them achieving the recommended five-a-day.”

Although Dr Farrow points out that children naturally go through a fussy stage during their toddler years, evidence-based scientific advice can help families encourage children to taste and eventually like new fruits and vegetables.

She adds: “Our research shows that a combination of repeatedly exposing children to vegetables, rewarding them for trying the food and modelling enjoying eating the vegetable yourself, can help to encourage children to taste and eventually like vegetables which they did not previously like eating.

“Eating behaviours have been shown to track throughout childhood and into adulthood – so it is vitally important that children are exposed to fruits and vegetables early in life to inform healthy eating as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.”