No one ever did a study on the impact that cartoon character Popeye the Sailor’s constant assertion about eating his Spinach had on the kids who watched him, but researchers now say new studies reveal that kids are more likely to try ‘healthy’ foods that are explained in their terms…
Researchers at Washington State University wanted to see if ‘child-centered nutrition phrases’ (CCNPs), affirmative statements that convey the benefits of healthy food in terns kids can uinderstand and relate to, influenced young children to make healthier food choices. The phrases focus on goals children have and are based on accurate nutrition information.
What they did
A group of 87 kids was first asked to rate a number of ‘healthy’ foods – including, green peppers (vegetable), tomatoes (vegetables), quinoa (grain), and lentils (protein) – by preference. Then, each child was offered the two foods they rated the lowest in appeal twice a week. One of each kid’s low-rated foods was presented with pre-selected age-appropriate facts about the benefits of the food.
“Every child wants to be bigger, faster, able to jump higher,” said Dr. Jane Lanigan, Lead Author of the study. “Using these types of examples made the food more attractive to eat.”
The other food was merely given to them to taste. Researchers recorded how much of each food the kids ate before, during and after the experimental period.
What they found
“We found that a month later, the kids ate twice as much of their CCNP food with the repeated exposure compared to the food without the positive words,” Lanigan said.
The study clearly showed that, presented with the right CCNPs, kids would even eat more of the foods they most disliked over time.
“I have two kids and I probably could have done things differently when trying to get them to eat healthier,” Lanigan said. “We wanted to fill a gap, where parents are often told what their kids should be eating but not how to get them to eat it. And that’s really important.”
He’s strong to the finish…
…’Cause he eats his Spinach’. Or, in modern terms, ‘makes him bigger, faster, able to jump higher’. Popeye (or his creators, at least) got it right 70 years ago. My guess is, they were just employing common sense about applying common sense…
~ Maggie J.