Trying to get kids to eat healthier? Don't tell them veggies are good for them

At some point, most kids will hear that drinking milk helps make their bones strong or that fish is food for the brain. But do these messages foster the idea that if something is good for us, it must surely taste bad? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, when children hear about the benefits of healthy food, they're less likely to eat it.

"We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it," write authors Michal Maimaran (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago Booth School of Business).

To test this idea, the authors conducted five studies with children between the ages of three and five. In all of the studies, the children were read a picture book story about a girl who ate a snack of crackers or carrots. Depending on the experiment, the story either did or did not state the benefits of the snack (making the girl strong or helping her learn how to count). The children were then given the opportunity to eat the food featured in the story and the authors measured how much they ate. The children ate more when they did not receive any message about the foods making them strong or helping them learn how to count.

Brands marketing food items to parents and children can use these results to de-emphasize the benefits of and focus more on the positive experience of eating the food. These results also help to empower and medical institutions looking to combat and juvenile diabetes.

"Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasizing how yummy the actually is," the authors conclude.

More information: Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach. "If It's Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2014.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Offer kids whole grains; they'll eat them, study shows

Jun 24, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Many parents presume their children will shun whole grains because they think they don't like them, a University of Florida researcher says, but a new UF study may start to debunk that ...

Recommended for you

Law requiring release of health information upheld

12 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—A state law that requires plaintiffs to release relevant protected health information before proceeding with allegations of medical liability has been upheld by a federal appeals court, according ...

Research highlights extent and effects of school violence

1 hour ago

Six percent of U.S. children and youth missed a day of school over the course of a year because they were the victim of violence or abuse at school. This was a major finding of a study on school safety by University of New ...

Planning for the move from children's to adult palliative care

3 hours ago

The differences between children's and adult palliative care services are too wide for young people with life-limiting conditions to negotiate, according to research by Bangor University. Commenting on the findings, the researchers ...

User comments