The best are medium cooked vegetables, according to boys and girls included in Australian science research. Researchers asked 82 five- and six-year-olds, accompanied by their parents, to sit at a table with broccoli and cauliflower that were boiled or steamed for three different cooking times (ranging from two to fourteen minutes). Their job was to evaluate the samples and decide which of them they liked best.
With both vegetables the children preferred the medium cooking time, but in terms of boiled versus steamed, they liked the steamed broccoli better, while the cauliflower preparation method did not influence their choice – they liked the taste of both the medium steamed and the medium cooked cauliflower. Vegetables prepared in this way are still firm and retain a balance of cooked and green flavour notes.
The best ways to prepare vegetables are steaming and microwaving
Vegetables from the genus are proven to have a positive effect on health, but when we are deciding whether to eat them an important factor comes in to play – sensory properties. This is especially noticeable in children, who rely mostly on taste, because health recommendations do not reach them. The sensory properties of vegetables can be controlled by choosing the appropriate cooking method, to which we need to pay more attention.
Since steaming preserves a large level of nutrients and children seem to like eating vegetables prepared this way, researchers particularly recommend using this method.
A step further would be using a microwave, which enables you to set the cooking levels in an easier and more accurate way while retaining the high nutritional value of the vegetables since they are cooked in their own steam.
Start cooking with your children
A very important factor in getting used to vegetables is age, at least according to British scientists who conducted an experiment with 332 babies and children of different ages and tried accustoming them to artichoke purée. They discovered that familiarising children with new tastes should start as soon as possible.
In addition to accustoming children early on, a positive attitude towards food can also be achieved by including them in the food preparation itself. In research by Nestlé conducted with 47 parents and their sons and daughters (aged six to ten years), the children either cooked with one of the parents or played.
Those who helped make lunch ate 75% more salad and 25% more chicken than those who were meanwhile playing in the room next door. You now know the recipe for dealing with picky kids: ambush them with steamed vegetables as early as possible and, most importantly, with positive energy and your presence (this will be the hardest, huh?). And good luck!
Author: Tilen Konte. Has a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology and is very interested in science and cooking. Since he loves cooking, he combined his passion for food with his knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics. He would like Slovenes to cook and eat better food and is convinced that science can help achieve this. In his free time, he works as a teaching and research assistant at the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana.
Note: The article was originally published on the Slovene blog Znanost in kuhanje (Science and Cooking).
Title photo: Tim Pierce via Flickr.
Translated by: Tanja Breznik.