See & Eat is a project is led by psychologists at the University of Reading and funded by the European organisation EIT Food*. The research team at Reading have shown that looking at simple picture books of where vegetables come from, how they grow, in shops, being prepared and ready to eat can help preschool children learn to like vegetables that they haven’t tried before or didn’t previously like. The psychology behind this is that seeing images of a food can make it feel more familiar and can help reduce the natural anxiety that many young children have about trying new foods.
Studies show that the best way to get children to eat more vegetables is to keep offering them over and over again (e.g. 10 or more times), even if your child doesn’t eat them. But, in practice, repeatedly buying, preparing and then having your child refuse a vegetable is difficult and it’s likely that many parents will give up on vegetables that their child won’t eat. Using images to familiarise children with vegetables may be an easier way to help parents get their children eating more vegetables, alongside offering them at meals and snacks.
The See & Eat project is looking at whether ebooks on tablets or smartphones could also help children to like and eat more vegetables. The ebooks can be downloaded for free and can also be personalised with pictures or videos. There are ebooks for 24 different vegetables from aubergines and butternut squash to spinach and sweet potato! To access the books you will first need to download the ‘Our Story’ app to your tablet or smartphone and then you can download the ebooks of your choice – see here for more information.
Why not take a look and pick an ebook for a vegetable you’d like your child to eat more of? You could try looking at the ebook with your child for a few minutes each day for a week or two and then see if they’ll eat more of the vegetable from the book. They would love to hear what you think – you can use the hashtag #SeeandEatVeg on Twitter or email us at SeeAndEat@reading.ac.uk and if you can share information about the project with other parents and carers this would really help us get the message out.
You can also sign up for a free webinar to hear more about the project here.
*This activity has received funding from EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the EU, under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
For feedback and questions please don’t hesitate to contact Cristina Florea – Tel: 020 7557 7930 /C.Florea@nutrition.org.uk