Here’s a good behavioral science question: What kinds of New Year’s resolutions are actually successful? It turns out there is research on this. The conclusion: Successful resolutions will focus on behaviors that are pretty easy to do.
Here’s a resolution that most families would find pretty easy to do: “In the new year, we’ll start our meals with fruits and veggies.”
Here’s what makes it easy:
- Generally, people eat what’s in front of them, especially when they are hungry. This resolution gets fruits and veggies in front of the family when they are hungry.
- It doesn’t require a bunch of additional preparation. Just get a few simple fruits and veggies out first.
Will it work?
My favorite research finding to back up the “eat-fruits-and-veggies-first” strategy involved a really simple intervention at a school cafeteria; cafeteria workers offered vegetables (e.g., bell pepper strips) while the kids waited in line.
The result: Compared to the standard cafeteria operations (when kids just had the option to choose veggies with the rest of their food), the kids consumed 6 times more vegetable servings when offered while they waited!
There are countless ways to implement this idea at home, so each family can customize the details. Here are some examples:
- Give your kids fruits and vegetables before they even sit down
- Don’t serve other food until fruits and vegetables are eaten (or at least started)
- Call it the appetizer, or call it something fancy like the pre-dinner power chomp
- Listen to a few minutes of a podcast, music, or an audiobook to help ritualize “fruits-and-veggie-time”. This can also provide a light distraction, act as an incentive, and serve as a cue for everyone to convene in the kitchen
- Have everyone eat fruits and vegetables while preparing the rest of the meal
You might even be able to make “eat-fruits-and-veggies-first” into a habit, making it even easier over time.
Other ways to make it easy
“Eat fruits and veggies first”, is a great way to “make it easy”. The more general idea is to create more opportunities where fruits and veggies are just put in front of people. Put fruits and vegetables here, there, and everywhere in your home, school, and office.
Finding the absolute easiest way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for any given person or family will require some creativity and tinkering. But almost everyone can find a few good ways to do it in their lives. And that would form the basis of a successful New Year’s resolution!
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