Study leader Jennifer Orlet Fisher, director of the Family Eating Laboratory at Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education, said about 70 percent of children have a sensitivity to bitterness.
The researchers studied 152 preschool-age children in the Head Start program who were served broccoli at snack time over a seven-week period, and found that offering 2.5 ounces of ranch dressing as a dip increased broccoli consumption by 80 percent among bitter-sensitive children. Low-fat and regular versions were tested, and both were equally effective, the study said.
"We know that children can learn to like vegetables if they are offered frequently, without prodding and prompting," Fisher said in a statement. "Children with a sensitivity to bitterness may avoid certain vegetables, but offering a low-fat dip could make it easier for those foods to become an accepted part of children's diet."
However, the researchers added that parents should not stick to dressings high in fat and salt. They can try applesauce, hummus or a low-fat, yogurt-based dip.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.