Want to Give Your Kids Vegetables in the Daily Diet? Don’t Tell Them It’s Healthy

diet, vegetable intake, daily diet, vegetables

A new study confirms what some parents know from experience: Most kids are less likely to eat vegetables if they’re presented to them as “healthy” as part of the daily diet. A recent study led by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business indicates that children who are told certain foods in the daily diet will make them stronger, smarter or taller are less likely to want to eat them. The study proposes that young children infer from messages on food instrumentality that if a certain food is good for one goal, it cannot be a good means to achieve another goal, the study and research explains in an article slated for publication in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

As such, if food is presented as making them strong or healthy, these children will conclude the food is not as tasty, and will therefore consume less of it even when regularly included in the daily diet. In short, the study concludes that the best way to foster healthy eating habits in young children is to avoid telling them how fruits and vegetables will make them stronger, taller or smarter. To reach these findings, researchers carried out five experiments on a sample population of 270 preschool-aged children (ages 3 to 5). The study found that children ate more of a food when it was presented without commentary or when it was presented simply as tasty, without any indication of its usefulness.

Meanwhile, a separate study published last year in the journal Psychological Science explored a different approach and found that teaching kids about nutrition through books could boost their vegetable intake in the daily diet. Scientists from Stanford University found that even very young children, aged 4 and 5, could benefit from a conceptual framework, built up over a period of three months, which encourages them to understand why eating a variety of foods is healthy, according to the researchers. Over time, kids chose to eat more vegetables.

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Posted in Children's Health, Dieting, Nutrition

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