It could be such a struggle to get kids to eat their vegetables, every parent of a picky eater knows this. What’s more, to get them to eat it without a parent around would be a miracle. Or is it? A study has just found a way that could make children eat vegetables and fruits on their own free will without any nagging from an adult necessary.
The solution? Advertise greens by using junk food tactics.
Studieshave shown how effective junk food ads are, so much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended putting a ban on junk food ads aimed at kids. Since it hasn't happened yet, a research published in the journal Pediatrics says it’s time to fight fire with fire--use the same marketing techniques that convince kids to eat junk food but instead feature fruits and veggies.
“A lot of people have pushed back on this, saying marketing is evil,” says one of the study authors, David R. Just, a professor of applied economics at Cornell University in New York. “But I have to disagree. It’s possible to use marketing techniques to do some good things.”
The study involved taking 10 elementary schools and placing each into one of four groups. The first group had banners around the salad bar showing cartoon vegetable characters with super powers. The second group were shown TV clips of the same veggie cartoons. The third got both banners around the salad bar and cartoon shows. The last served as a control group and received no intervention. The whole exercise took six weeks.
Guess what? It worked! Compared to the control group, the schools with both the banners and TV ads saw 239.2 percent more students taking veggies from the salad bar. Schools with just the banners alone also saw an increase of 90.5 percent of students. TV segments alone proved to be ineffective, however, showing a statistically insignificant increase.
Implementation, however, is where it gets tricky. “Schools are left to do their own marketing, and that’s not cost effective,” says Just suggesting that fruit and vegetable ads should be a national program. “McDonald’s is effective because you see their marketing everywhere.”
In the meantime, try getting your picky eater to eat healthier by setting a good example. Show them that you have veggies on your plate and pile up some on their plate as well. “Even if you don’t like beets, for example, you should still serve them to your kids--without making any negative comments about them,” saysJeannie Moloo, Ph.D., and R.D. a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Also, persistence is key. “Usually children reject certain foods because they are new to them. It may take several exposures before they develop a liking to these initially unfavourable foods,” says the European Food Information Council. So keep trying but go slowly. If your child turns up his nose at what you served him tonight, cook it up again next week. He just might try it.
And if one takeaway from the experiement above, make it fun. That will at least get their positive attention.