A recent study says that children who are told certain foods will make them stronger, smarter or taller are less likely to want to eat them.
"We propose that young children infer from messages on food instrumentality that if a certain food is good for one goal, it cannot be a good means to achieve another goal," says Dr Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
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"Similarly, if food is presented as something that makes them strong, then these children will conclude that the food is not as tasty, and will therefore consume less of it," Fishbach adds.
In short, the study concludes that the best way to foster healthy eating habits in young children is to avoid telling them how fruits and vegetables will make them stronger, taller or smarter.
For the study, researchers carried out five experiments on a sample population of 270 preschool children (aged three to five).
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The study found that these kids ate more of a certain food item when it was presented without commentary or was simply called tasty, without any further indication of its usefulness.
Meanwhile, a separate study published last year in the journal Psychological Science explored a different approach and found that teaching kids about nutrition through books could boost their vegetable intake.
Scientists from Stanford University in the US found that kids could benefit from a conceptual framework, built over a period of three months, which encourages them to understand why eating a variety of foods is healthy for them.
Over time, these kids chose to eat more vegetables.