TheBUZZ: Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to getting kids to eat their vegetables?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Placing photos of vegetables on lunch trays doubled green bean consumption and tripled carrot consumption at one elementary school.
WHAT WE KNOW
Could pictures of vegetables on lunch trays make it cool for kids to eat green beans? Studies have shown kids learn primarily by example, so if you consume more fruits and vegetables, they may eventually be persuaded to do the same. If you offer healthy options each day, children will learn what normal meals are supposed to look like. It may take a few tries before your kids will like a new food. In fact, evidence suggests that rewards, such as stickers, could be helpful at increasing vegetable consumption.
With the recent push for healthier school lunches, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that increasing the amount of vegetables children eat during lunchtime, or anytime, could be as simple as placing photos of vegetables on their lunch trays.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Researchers looked at the amount of veggies that kids ate during a normal day in February 2011 and compared it with consumption when the cafeteria served the exact same menu in May. On the later date, students went through the lunch line with trays that featured photographs of carrots and green beans in two of the tray’s six compartments – subtle hints that students should select those foods.
Not only did more students take vegetables that second day, but the total amount of vegetables consumed went up as well. When the trays featured photos of green beans, 96 out of 647 kids took the vegetable, compared with 42 out of 666 kids on the day when trays lacked pictures. For carrots, 77 of 666 kids took the vegetable when trays were photo-free, but when pictures were used, 238 out of 647 kids took carrots. Overall, students ate three times as many carrots and twice as many green beans.*
More research would be needed to support the results and to suggest ways to boost the amount of vegetables students eat, but this an easy, feasible intervention for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption that could be implemented right away.
Try lots of creative ways to get your kids to experiment with fruits and veggies! While at times it might be frustrating, trying new ways to prepare fruits and vegetables (we have over 1,000 recipes!) and being positive are very important when trying to get your kids to love them! Read About Picky Eaters
Creative way to get your kids to eat their veggies …
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*Reicks, M., J. Redden, T. Mann, et al. “Photographs in Lunch Try Compartments and Vegetable Consumption Among Children in Elementary School Cafeterias.” Journal of the American Medical Association (2012), doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.170