CHILDREN may need to be "bribed" to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables, experts have warned.

Around 100 scientists, nutritionists, experts in eating behaviour and food professionals from across Europe gathered at St Andrews University to examine barriers to children's enjoyment of healthy food.

Almost one in 10 children (9%) in Scotland consumes no fruit or vegetables, while just over one in 10 boys (13%) and girls (12%) in Scotland consume the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

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The two-day event will present research findings in the field from the universities of St Andrews, Leeds and Aberdeen, who have been working with Danone Baby Nutrition to promote healthy eating habits from an early age.

Professor Marion Hetherington from Leeds University, the principle investigator for the project, said: "Vegetable intakes remain relatively low, especially in children. Most children in Europe fail to consume the recommended five fruit and veg a day and many even fail to meet the minimum recommendation of just one portion a day.

"Consuming enough fruit and vegetables depends on how much they are liked, therefore establishing preference for vegetables early in a child's development is the best way to improve intake and this will last a lifetime."

Specialists at the event will look at how children can be encouraged to learn to like a wide range of vegetables through early introductions, good old-fashioned bribery and by parents simply adopting healthy eating habits themselves, a spokesman for the conference said.

It is generally accepted that consuming fruit and vegetables promotes health and well-being. Repeated exposure to a variety of healthy foods is the most effective way to increase a child's liking of vegetables, especially if these strategies are used from weaning, the experts will report.