Monday, June 14, 2010

Curbing Childhood Obesity

Want your kids to eat healthier?  Give them a little nudge.  That's the advice of behavioral researchers of several studies recently reported on in the Washington Post article, "Small changes steer kids toward smarter school lunch choices."

Brian Wansink of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab conducted a little experiment at elementary school cafeterias and found food placement and presentation made all the difference.

"In the school cafeterias Wansink surveyed, whole fruits were displayed in steel bins in dimly lighted areas of the lunch line. Wansink went to discount store T.J. Maxx and bought a cheap wire fruit rack. He found an extra desk lamp, which he used to shine on the fruit. "Sales of fruit in one school went up 54 percent. Not in a semester: by the end of the second week," Wansink said. "It would have gone up faster, but they kept running out of fruit." 

The takeaway here is that these simple changes can also be easily incorporated at home.  Moms and dads, make sure you display fresh fruit in a pretty bowl, center stage on a well-lit countertop, and leave the cookies in a dark corner!  Verbal prompts also have been found to be effective when it comes to influencing children's eating habits.

In 2007, Marlene Schwartz, the deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, created a study in which cafeteria workers at one school asked each student whether they would like to add fruit or fruit juice to their lunch. Ninety percent of students took the fruit or juice, and 70 percent consumed it. In the school with no verbal prompting, 60 percent of students took fruit or juice, and 40 percent consumed it."  

Yes, no matter how may times you have to do it, keep offering fruits as snacks.  Chances are a hungry kid will say "yes" to that apple or orange more often than if you don't make the suggestion.  To find out more creative ways schools, teachers, and parents can help get kids to eat more fruits and veggies, keep reading the article here.

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