Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - EuropeUS edition | Asian edition

Headlines > Science & Nutrition

Three year olds rebel against healthy foods, research suggests

Post a commentBy Anne Bruce , 25-Jul-2014
Last updated on 25-Jul-2014 at 15:03 GMT

Just don't tell 'em it's healthy...
Just don't tell 'em it's healthy...

When children as young as three hear about the benefits of healthy food, they're less likely to eat it, a new study suggests.

The report, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, was based on five studies with children between the ages of three and five. In all of the studies, the children were read a picture book story about a girl who ate a snack of crackers or carrots.

Depending on the experiment, the story either did or did not state the benefits of the snack, which were making the girl strong or helping her to learn how to count.

The children were then given the opportunity to eat the food featured in the story and the authors measured how much they ate.

The children ate more when they did not receive any message about the foods making them strong or helping them learn how to count.

"We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it," wrote authors Michal Maimaran of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Young children

She said young children who have no pre-existing associations (e.g., eating carrots and knowing how to read) were chosen, as older children may have pre-existing associations between healthy food and less tasty food.

Brands marketing food items to parents and children would be advised, based on these results to de-emphasize the benefits of healthy food and focus more on the positive experience of eating the food, the authors suggested.

The results may also help to empower policy makers and medical institutions looking to combat childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.

Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasizing how yummy the food actually is,” the authors conclude.

However, marketing particular food’s potential health benefits may still have a positive impact on consumption on children, by influencing caregivers to purchase and serve it, they add.

Source: Journal of Consumer Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1086/677224
"If It's Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food."
Authors: Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach.

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Get FREE access to authoritative breaking news, videos, podcasts, webinars and white papers. SUBSCRIBE

Post a comment

Comment title *
Your comment *
Your name *
Your email *

We will not publish your email on the site

I agree to Terms and Conditions

These comments have not been moderated. You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment. Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments. If you wish to complain about a comment please use the "REPORT ABUSE" button or contact the editors.