Want Your Kid To Eat It? Don't Call It Healthy

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“Drink your milk so you’ll have strong bones.”

“Eat your carrots so you’ll have good eyesight.”

“Protein like eggs will help you build muscles.”

Sound familiar?  I’m guilty of saying these and probably a lot more over the past 12 years. Honestly, I thought saying things like this were good and make kids more likely to eat certain foods – or at least, help to get across the point that there’s a reason to why I serve the foods I do.

But turns out this is NOT what I should have been doing – at least according to a 2015 research article that I recently read. In fact, the study’s findings show the opposite. Here’s a brief recap:

  • The study gave children 3-5 years old a specific food.  The food was described as either one that “makes you stronger,” “helps you read,” or “helps you count” to each child.

  • The results found that when a food was described as having a positive purpose or function in the child’s body that the kids not only perceived the food as less tasty, but also ate less of it.

  • This is in comparison to other foods served to the kids that were only described as tasting good or presented with nothing being said about the food.   

The takeaway? 

The study suggests we might be better off not saying much of anything at all - at least if it’s a food we’d like to see our kids eat! If a food or recipe is discussed, focus on flavor or taste, but not why it’s good for their body or mind.

Granted this is just one study, but I sure do wish I could rewind a few years to when my kids were 3 and 6 to give it a try! Do any of you take this approach and does it work??  I’d love to hear from you, so let me know!

How do you get your kids to try new foods?

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Article Citation: If It’s Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food Author(s): Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach Source: Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 41, No. 3 (October 2014), pp. 642-655