30 July 2014

Kids don't trust foods classified as 'healthy'

To improve the eating habits of kids, you shouldn't don't dwell on the health benefits of individual food items.


Want young children to embrace a more healthful diet?

Don't tell them something that's healthy is good for them. Doing so will actually make them think it won't taste good, a new study suggests.

Read: Top 10 healthy eating tips for kids

"Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasising how yummy the food actually is," said study authors Michal Maimaran, of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and Ayelet Fishbach, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Presenting foods differently

The researchers launched their study to test their prediction 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," they said in a journal news release.

Read: Healthy lunchbox ideas for picky kids

In five experiments, the researchers focused on children aged 3 to 5. In each one, the children looked at a picture book featuring a girl who ate crackers or carrots. When offered the same foods later, the kids in the study were less likely to eat one if the picture book had touted it as good for their health or helpful to the learning process.

The study authors suggest that marketers might better reach parents and children by putting less emphasis on the health value of food and focus more on the positive experience of eating the food.

Read more:

Fortified foods don't make enough of a difference
Fast food not main cause of kids' obesity
Keep lunchboxes healthy

Image: Mother and daughter eating vegetables from Shutterstock

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