Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 01:09 UK

Children will eat more fruit 'as long as it looks good'

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

Fruit skewers
Skewers and garnishes can aid the seduction

Making fruit look good holds the key to getting children to eat more of it, a study suggests.

In tests, when offered the same amount and types of fruit, children ate far more if it was made fun and attractive, the journal Appetite reports.

The researchers, who studied nearly 100 pupils in the Netherlands and Belgium, say parents and schools should follow this example.

However, they said food presentations needed to remain innovative.

In the study of children aged four to seven, apples, strawberries and seedless grapes were put on offer, but presented in different ways.

Seduction secrets

Given the choice, the children plumped for these fruits more readily when they were made into a hedgehog - skewered with colourful cocktail sticks that were pierced into a watermelon.

The same cubed fruits did little for the children's palates when they were simply offered on a white dish.

Another technique is to try to hide vegetables and fruits in other foods like sauces
Dr Laura Wyness of the British Nutrition Foundation

Children ate nearly twice as much of the "fun" fruit, even though they said they understood that both fruit options - hedgehog and plain dish - should taste the same.

The researchers suggest supermarkets could also capitalise on the findings to make fruit more appealing for children and their parents alike.

Attractive packaging and "perhaps adding a little toy, like the toy that comes with a Happy Meal, to the packaging could make this kind of snack even more appealing", they told the journal.

But Esther Jansen and her colleagues warn that "fun" fruit presentations might soon lose their appeal with children if they were used too many times.

"It is probably necessary for parents and food producers to remain innovative," they said.

Dr Laura Wyness of the British Nutrition Foundation said: "It is advisable to try to make food as appetising as possible.

"How food looks probably does have quite an influence, especially for kids who are getting used to different types of food."

She said some children were fussy eaters and this could be challenging for parents.

"Another technique is to try to hide vegetables and fruits in other foods like sauces," she said.

And for parents who do not have the time to make elaborate fruit faces and flowers from carrots and radishes, there are simpler ways to make foods interesting, such as cutting it into triangles, squares or strips.

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