right when he sang “I’m strong to the finich, cause I eats
one-eyed comic character’s nearly 100-year-old message to
kids about the benefits of eating the leafy green vegetable
still holds true.
Washington State University and Florida State University found
that telling children about the benefits of certain foods may
get them to eat healthier rather than just giving them a
healthy food choice without explanation. Their study was
published in the Journal of Nutritional Education and
wants to be bigger, faster, able to jump higher,” lead
author Jane Lanigan, associate professor in department of
human development at WSU, said in a press release.
during their six week study, researchers told 87 children ages
3 to 5 that if they ate lentils — those mini-legumes that
are a healthy, low-fat source of protein and fiber — they
would “grow bigger and run faster.”
The kids were
initially asked to rank how much they liked four foods from
different food groups including lentils (protein), quinoa
(grain), green peppers (vegetables), and tomatoes
They were then
offered two of the foods twice a week as part of their normal
class routine. The low-rated food the kids chose was served up
with age-appropriate facts about the benefits of eating the
food. Their more-favored food did not get extra messaging.
The amount of
the food they ate was measured during the pre-test, post-test,
and one month after the study ended.
measurements showed no result, something researchers chalked
up to the kids being “sick of eating the same foods.” But
a month later, they found the children ate twice as much of
the food that came with the healthy pitch.
Over time, the
study showed that telling kids about the benefits of foods in
ways they can understand was likely to increase the amount of
healthy food they ate, researchers found.
“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,” Lanigan stated.