NATIONAL - Getting kids to eat their fruit and vegetables is no small feat. But simply introducing good foods when kids are still in daycare can set up health habits last a lifetime.
At the YMCA child care center in Liberty City, the preschoolers are part of a University of Miami intervention program aimed at preventing obesity.
Researchers discovered it was already a problem for some of their young subjects. Study author Ruby Natale, Ph.D., said, "I would never think that a three-year-old would be obese. That's a body mass index in the 95th percentile. That was really shocking."
Researchers were also surprised by how quickly the children embraced their new snack offerings.
When the six-month study was started there was plenty of skepticism from adults. Natale says, "We were told that the children were going to hate broccoli and this was never going to work. Some teachers even referred to it as prison food. You are going to serve pita and cheese and the kids are never going to go for this."
Researchers and the children proved them wrong.
To get the message home parents were invited to come to the center for several dinners where they would learn about healthy food options.
Jason's father is thrilled his four-year-old now prefers fruit over candy. "He wakes up in the morning, the first thing he grabs is an apple in the morning."
On average, cookie consumption decreased 50 percent. Fruit and vegetables increased by 25 percent. The children drank 50 percent less juice and 20 percent more water.
Researchers are hoping study results will lead to changes in the food and beverages served at child care centers across the country.