Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Kids to Eat More Vegetables

I just read an interesting study that showed putting pictures of vegetables on cafeteria trays in schools caused more kids to put those vegetables on their trays.  They had pictures of carrots and green beans on the trays and kids would then pick carrots or green beans and put them in those corresponding spots.  Though overall the amount of vegetable consumption is still low compared to what the government is recommending, there is an improvement and it is a low cost intervention.  You can read the full article below.

Maybe buying bowls and dishes with vegetable pictures on it will help vegetable consumption at home, too.  Goodbye Cinderella plate and hello Spinach plate?  

Picture a Carrot, Eat a Carrot

Pasting photos of vegetables onto school lunch trays induced children to eat more of the real thing in a small controlled trial, researchers said.
The proportion of elementary-school children taking green beans doubled and the number who took carrots tripled when their trays featured pictures of these vegetables, reported Marla Reicks, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
"We expected these photographs to indicate to the children that others typically select and place vegetables in those compartments and that they should do so too," the researchers explained in a research letter published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Some 37% of kids in a Richfield, Minn., elementary school helped themselves to carrots and 15% took green beans when photos of these vegetables were placed in the appropriate tray compartments on one day last May.
That compared with 12% who took carrots and 6% who took green beans on an earlier day when regular trays were used (both comparisons P<0.001).
Students in the school had the option of taking apple sauce or orange slices instead of the vegetables. Reicks and colleagues noted that these choices remained the most popular even with the visual cue to take carrots or green beans.
Otherwise the meal was the same on both days of the study. Cafeteria staff doled out the main course and all portions -- including those of the vegetables and fruits -- were standardized.
Even though vegetable consumption remained low with the intervention, falling short of government recommendations, Reicks and colleagues suggested the picture cues had value.
"Placing photographs in cafeteria lunch trays requires no special training and incurs minimal costs and labor (in this study, about $3 and 20 minutes per 100 trays)," they argued.
The increase in vegetable consumption was also "within range ... found in more expensive interventions," the researchers added.
Reicks and colleagues noted that the study involved a single school and two days. "Further research is needed to assess how well the effects generalize to other settings and persist over time," they wrote.