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Research shows vegetables in fun shapes will encourage children to make better food choices.

Elisabeth Sherman
July 24, 2017

Wants kids to eat their vegetables? The trick might be to 3D print them into more appealing shapes, according to new research.

The Independent reports that researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of Food Engineering, experimented with 3D-printing fruits and vegetables in the shape of sea creatures in order to tempt school children to eat the healthy snacks.

The researchers printed one such offering, a mixture of “banana, white beans, mushrooms and milk,” into the shape of an octopus.

“This snack was based on ingredients that are sources of iron, calcium and vitamin D. Some of these are not appreciated by children, but in the shape of an octopus [it’s different],” one of the head researchers on the study, Dr. Carla Severini, of the University of Foggia, told the Times.

The team also hopes to print fish and cauliflower, which they say many kids are likely to refuse to eat at dinnertime. Perhaps optimistically, the researchers also want to print insect-based snacks, a protein-rich food source that has been slow to gain traction in the Western diet.

Severini says that ultimately the goal is to have 3D printed snacks, like those tested by her team, mass-produced and served in schools, what many consider the front lines in the battle against the obesity epidemic both in the U.K. and America. 

The CEO of YFood, Nadia El Hadery, an organization that supports technological innovation in the food industry, thinks 3D printing vegetables for kids has potential, especially when it comes to a future in which there are 3D printers widely available to families who want to create their own food.

“For too long British children have had a massive disconnect with their food and the obesity crisis is a symptom of this,” she told the Times. “Printing out meals is a powerful opportunity…it allows for experimentation with flavors, form and texture."

Despite the hopes of Severini and her colleagues, kids don't yet have control over what shape their vegetables come in, and it might be along while yet until schools have the resources to 3D print their own food. For now, picky eaters will just have to eat their peas and carrots they way they come naturally from the grocery store. But nobody says you can't turn those plain vegetables into their own pieces of satisfying artwork.