In the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by scientists at Washington State University (WSU) and Florida State University (FSU), researchers found that using affirming statements like ‘eat your lentils if you want to grow bigger and faster’ were more effective at getting kids to make healthy food choices than presenting food repeatedly without conversation.
“Every child wants to be bigger, faster, able to jump higher,” said lead author of the study, Jane Lanigan, associate professor in the WSU Department of Human Development.
“Using these types of examples made the food more attractive to eat.”
Methods and results
A total of 98 families (89% response rate) recruited from two early education programs agreed to participate in the study and 87 children aged 3- to 6-years-old completed the experiment. These children were predominantly white (67%), from middle- to upper-income homes, with highly educated parents (67% from homes with parents who had a bachelor’s degree or higher).
Before beginning, the 87 children in the experiment ranked how much they liked four foods chosen from different food groups including, green peppers (vegetable), tomatoes (vegetables), quinoa (grain), and lentils (protein).
The WSU and FSU research team then offered these healthy foods to a group of 3- to-5-year-old children over the course of six weeks with food testing built into the children’s normal classroom routine.
Over the six weeks, the kids were offered two of the foods they liked the least twice a week and when presenting those foods, researchers shared pre-selected age-appropriate facts about the benefits of the food with the kids.