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Why men won't eat their veggies

Kimberly Gillan
Monday, August 27, 2012
Curtis Stone's sweet corn and zucchini ratatouille
Curtis Stone's sweet corn and zucchini ratatouille

Men are known to eat less fruit and vegetables than women and now US psychologists think they have worked out why.

It's got to do with the value men place on eating fruit and veggies, and that men feel they have less control over their intake than women.

"Men don't believe as strongly as women that fruit and vegetable consumption is an important part of maintaining health," study researcher John A Updegraff, associate professor of social and health psychology at Kent State University in Ohio, told MyHealthNewsDaily.com.

Related: Curtis Stone's sweet corn and zucchini ratatouille (pictured above)

"Men feel less confident in their ability to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, especially when they are at work or in front of the television."

Updegraff and a team of researchers looked at data from almost 3400 people who were surveyed in 2007 about their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about food. They investigated whether a psychology theory called "the theory of planned behaviour" explained why men are less likely to choose natural foods.

To measure the impact of this theory, the researchers looked at men and women's attitudes towards fruit and vegetables, how much control they felt they had over their diet and how aware they were about other people wanting them to consume a healthier diet.

They found women had a better attitude towards eating fresh produce, and knew that by doing so they would live longer and look better.

The researchers also found women had more confidence when it came to choosing fruit and vegetables to snack on, even if they were tired, ravenous or surrounded by people eating unhealthy food.

The study suggests that public health messages about the importance of eating fresh produce are being absorbed by women, but not by men.

"It's important to help men understand the importance of a healthy diet, as well as to develop confidence in their ability to make those healthy choices, whether it be at work or at home," Updegraff said.

Now Updegraff would like to see a more practical approach to educating men about healthy eating.

"What might work best is teaching men ways to take control over their fruit and vegetable consumption," he said.

And Updegraff warns against increasing the pressure on men to eat better.

"It turns out that this peer pressure is not a particularly strong motivator, for either men or for women," Updegraff said.

Julie Gilbert, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, told ninemsn men are often resistant to vegetables, so it's important to find creative ways to include them in the diet.

"The best way to start with men is to get them to incorporate the vegetables and the fruit in the meals they are already eating," she said.

"So put your fruit on your cereal, grate vegetables into bolognaise sauce and put tomato, beetroot, lettuce on a burger."

Gilbert says once people get used to the flavours and textures of fruit and vegetables they become a lot more appealing.

In pictures: Veggie breakfast ideas

"You can't force someone into eating vegetables and fruit, but you can subtly add it and get them used to those lovely flavours," she said.

"If you have to add a low fat white sauce to your cauliflower or add gravy to the roast vegetables, do it."

The study was published in the journal Appetite.

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