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Guess who likes vegetables more: boys or girls?

By Michelle Edelbaum, November 20, 2009 - 11:51am

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Even though my son is only 8 months old, I’m offering him a wide variety of foods and spices (curry!) with the hope that he’ll be an adventurous eater. But after I recently read that boys and girls prefer different foods, I realized there may be more influencing kids' food preferences than what we put on their plates. (Find more than 20 delicious recipes for dinners and lunches kids will love here.)

According to a new study of kids in grades 3-12 published in the Journal of School Health, girls preferred fruit and vegetables, while boys liked meat, fish and poultry. (Don’t worry, tastes changed and expanded as the kids got older.)

I e-mailed the study’s co-authors, Natalie Caine-Bish, Ph.D., R.D., and Barbara Scheule, Ph.D., R.D., of Kent State University, to find out why. Their responses reassured me that there are things parents, and schools, can do to encourage all kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. (Get 9 tips for getting your kids to eat healthier here.)

One of the ways we can get kids to eat healthier is to offer a variety of healthy foods, in appealing ways. Try offering these kid-friendly recipes to your sons and daughters to get them to eat a balanced, healthy diet:

  • Pecan-Crusted Turkey Tenderloin with Grilled Peach Salsa- Pair sweet fruit with yummy nut-crusted turkey for a delicious dinner.
  • Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes- This quick dinner features melted cheese and beef atop yummy baked potatoes and broccoli.
  • Hamburger Buddy- Very finely chopping onion, mushrooms and carrots in the food processor for this recipe is not only fast—it makes the vegetables hard to detect for picky eaters. They also form the base for the sauce of this ground beef skillet supper.
  • EatingWell Sloppy Joes- Our updated Sloppy Joe takes lean ground beef and adds chopped cremini mushrooms and diced fresh plum tomatoes, all in a zesty sauce. Served on a whole-wheat bun, this hearty dinner sandwich will please adults and kids.

So why the boy-girl divide? Caine-Bish thinks the differences could be linked to how we "genderize" kids— that boys try to be more like their dads, who may traditionally eat more meat, and girls try to be more like their moms by eating fruits and vegetables. Scheule said she thought it’s possible that men and potentially boys think about meat with regard to muscle and athletic performance and women and perhaps girls are thinking about health and weight control.

Even though this study was limited, it reinforces that the foods we offer kids, and how we offer them, makes a difference. My husband and I both eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, along with fish and lean meats, so we’re already leading by example, but I’ll be creative in finding delicious ways to offer those foods to our son so he gobbles them up and asks for more!

TAGS: Michelle Edelbaum, Food News Blog, Food & health news, Healthy kids

Michelle Edelbaum
Michelle is the digital editor for EatingWell Media Group. She puts her background in journalism to work online at EatingWell.com and in EatingWell Magazine, authoring the Good Questions interview with interesting people in the world of food and health.

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