The Best Way to Encourage Healthy Eating: Put Fruits and Veggies in Sight

Chow on 10.14.11
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Photo: Moodboard/Corbis

Kids like to see, know, and choose what they eat. That is one reason they love going to farmer's markets to pick out fruits and veggies and learning to grow weird and colorful vegetables in a garden. Could getting our kids to choose more fruits and veggies be as simple as putting them on display?

Research on encouraging healthy eating in school cafeterias shows that kids who could view foods in line at school made healthier choices than pre-selecting the menu. This study also discovered that displaying an array of brownies led kids to pick these treats. So simply seeing a food can lead a person to choosing it.

So, what if we make sure that our schools are displaying healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in an appealing way? (Even if you pack your kids lunch, they can be more appealing.) We can use the power of suggestion to improve healthy eating habits and combat obesity.  This strategy can also work at home. Set out a big bowl of beautiful, ripe fruits in plain sight and point it out around snack time.  This is also a great way to get your kids to try new fruits and veggies. Decorate a fall table with an attractive bowl of pomegranets, clementines, or squash and pumpkin and see if it gets them interested.

Getting our kids to eat healthier foods doesn't have to be rocket science. But by spending a little time thinking about behavioral motivations, and learning from the research that is out there, we can make a few small changes in our homes that act as cues for kids' own curiosity about (and appetite for) appealing, healthy foods. It's not true that kids always go for the unhealthiest food choices - but they do go for the most attractive ones.

So let's stack the deck in our favor.

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