Can bribing children to eat healthy food finally reap rewards?

The dinner table is often a battleground for families as parents strive to get our children to 'eat up your greens'

DINNER times could get a lot more interesting soon if an Italian politician gets her way.

Under a proposed new law, Italian parents could be swapping kale for jail if they force their children into a vegan diet.

Italian MP Elvira Savino has called those who impose strict vegan diets as "reckless" and leading to "dangerous eating behaviour".

She has put forward a law proposing a sentence of up to a year in jail for parents of vegan children, and even longer sentences if the child's health is damaged by their diet.

In the proposal for the law, she wrote that it was irresponsible to feed a child "a diet devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth".

Several high-profile cases of child malnutrition in Italy have prompted the idea from Savino, who has singled out a lack of iron, zinc and important vitamins as being dangerous for children.

Such a law, or something similar where parents are reprimanded for how they choose to feed their children, could be interesting to say the least.

The dinner table is often a battleground for many families as we strive to get our children to 'eat up your greens'.

Could parents now be forced to make even bigger efforts to ensure children are eating the required foods needed for a healthy diet?

If your house is anything like ours, 'finish your peas if you want dessert tonight' or 'no more Xbox until everything is gone from your plate', are regular phrases you may hear.

The daily challenge of getting children to eat that little bit better has seen bribery become the norm for many families.

While many would deny they do this I freely admit I bribe my kids to eat, although I prefer to call them 'rewards'.

For those who say their kids love to tuck into bowls of cauliflower and stalks of broccoli, lucky you.

Some children have a natural love for fruit and vegetables, but realistically many parents face a daily struggle to even get one piece of the five a day into their little ones.

Many children, just like one of my three sons in particular, are obstinate enough to think that if a food is a different colour, then it won't be nice.

So how do you get kids to eat better, beyond blending cauliflower into their mashed potatoes or hiding onions in their stew?

A fierce debate has existed for years over whether we should bribe our children to eat healthily.

Recent research in the United States suggests while there are downsides to the strategy, it can also really work.

A study of 8.000 children offered tokens to spend in the school store or book fair if they ate at least one serving of fruit or vegetables saw results.

It found the number who ate one serving doubled during the study and the effects of the rewards continued after the study was over.

Two months later and kids who had been rewarded for their healthy behaviour for five weeks were still eating 44 per cent more fruit and vegetables than they had before.

But with bribes or rewards, there are obvious downsides.

Giving people rewards, particularly children, significantly reduces their motivation to pursue the activity or 'eat that banana' without receiving something in return.

What may look like success when you get your little one to eat all of their broccoli is maybe winning that particular battle but not the war.

Offered too often, rewards can teach children poor life lessons - that bribery gets them exactly what they want.

But when faced with fussy eaters, what other route is there to take?

In my lasting hope that my kids will become fans of fruit and vegetables, I believe in the power that if they do something over and over again, it will become a subconscious, involuntary decision.

One day perhaps those healthy habits will have more staying power than the incentive of a bribe or reward.



The world-famous Hillsborough International Oyster Festival returns from August 30 to September 3, with a spectacular showcase of the best in hospitality, local produce, arts and entertainment.

Chef Andy Rea from Mourne Seafood Bar, alongside local chefs Derek Patterson from The Plough and Karl Banks from The Hillside will be cooking up a fantastic menu at the Smeg Pop-up restaurant as part of the festival programme on September 1.

Celebrate the Hillsborough Oyster Festival

To celebrate this year’s festival, the Mourne Seafood Bar is giving away a delicious prize for seafood fans - a cookery lesson for two people at their cookery school in Belfast.

The lucky winner can choose a date for their cookery lesson, subject to class availability.

Five lucky runners-up also have the chance to win a family pass to the festivities on the afternoon of September 3 where they will be able to enjoy the Phoenix Natural Gas Soapbox Derby and the Turkish Airlines World Oyster Eating Championship plus much more.

For further information on the festival visit

To be in with a chance to win the Mourne Seafood Bar cookery lesson or a family pass to the Hillsborough Oyster Festival on September 3, simply email your name, address and telephone number - along with the answer to the question below - to

Closing date for entries is Tuesday August 23 at noon.

(Q) What date does this year's Hillsborough International Oyster Festival begin?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


What's Hot!

Berries - The Woodland Trust are appealing for anyone who spots ripe blackberries to get in touch. Following a cold spring, which delayed leafing and flowering in many species, the charity wants people to record when and where the ripe fruit is as it tracks progress in Northern Ireland. For more information visit

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Brighten up your day - Try the colourful new Limited Collection Pastel Pop beauty range from Marks & Spencer. From ice-cream coloured nail polishes to pretty eyeshadows in shades of pink, lilac and peach - all packed into a cute cosmetic bag.

What's Not!

The Office - Actor Ricky Gervais has revealed it could be the end of his famous character from The Office. When asked recently about his character David Brent he said: "I'll have to kill him off soon".

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Expelled - Dutch Gymnast Yuri van Gelder was expelled from the Olympics after a night of drinking in Rio to celebrate his win. He violated his team's restrictions on alcohol consumption after qualifying for the final of the rings event.

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Competition winners

The winners of last week's Omniplex cinema family passes are

Mary Patterson, Ballymena

Tony Fearon, Poyntzpass

Brenda Fegan, Warrenpoint

Denise O'Boyle, Glenavy

Orla Rooney, Hilltown


Easy Peasy Recipe

This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Greek-style lemon roasted potatoes.

You will need:

1.3kg potatoes, peeled and cut into thick wedges

80ml olive oil

2 lemons, juiced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

700ml chicken stock

To make:

Preheat oven to 200C / Gas 6.

Put potato wedges into a large bowl and drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the wedges and toss to coat.

Season potatoes with salt, oregano and black pepper; toss again to coat.

Spread potato wedges in a single layer in a deep roasting tin.

Pour chicken stock over the potatoes.

Roast potatoes in preheated oven until tender and golden brown for around 1 hour.

Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?

Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?

If so, then we want to hear from you.

You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:

Easy Peasy Recipes,

Suzanne McGonagle,

Irish News

113-117 Donegall Street,





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