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Scientists Explain How Television Could Make Children Eat Healthier

One of the most complicated tasks for every parent is trying to convince their children to eat a healthy snack instead of junk food, and, what’s even more complicated, make them enjoy those healthy foods.

We at Bright Side found a study that explains and provides a possible method in which you can use television in your favor to make children like healthy food.

As incredible as it may seem, television can be an ally to make your children eat healthy meals.

You may be wondering: “How can television help me to make my child eat healthier?” The answer is more simple than you can imagine: you just have to make children watch cooking shows where the main ingredients of the dishes are healthy foods, like, for example, MasterChef Junior. A study concluded that cooking shows and videos can have a positive effect on children’s behaviors and attitudes.

How? The authors said these shows promote healthy perceptions of food, because, according to a theory called Cue Reactivity, it is recognized that people can develop learned responses by being presented with certain stimuli or signals. The visual signs of food in the programs are modeling what dishes children want to consume, as well as triggering a craving for the foods shown and causing a specific behavior in children.

This is how they discovered the influence of television on children’s healthy eating.

In order to carry out the study, 125 children whose ages ranged from 10 to 12 years old were asked to watch 10 minutes of a Dutch television program designed for children. Some watched an episode that featured healthy foods, and others watched an episode featuring unhealthy snacks. Thus, the first video showed tomatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, and other fruits and vegetables, while the second presented hamburgers, French fries with mayonnaise, and croissants.

To make sure that the children’s perception of the foods was how the authors intended, they asked the children to rate the products that appeared in the videos from 0 to 10 according to their perception, where zero was very unhealthy and 10 was very healthy. In the end the children were offered a snack: they could choose from a set of options such as apple slices, cucumber pieces, French fries, or pretzels.

41% of children chose healthy options.

In the group of children who watched the video with healthy foods, more than 41% chose a healthy snack, while in the other group, only 20% of the children chose a healthy option. Those who watched an episode with healthy snacks were 2.7 times more likely to choose healthy food after watching it on television.

“The results of this study indicate that cooking shows can be a promising tool to promote positive changes in the preferences, attitudes, and behaviors related to children’s eating,” said lead research author Frans Folkvord, a doctor at Tilburg University.

Other alternatives to promote good nutrition in children

Fostering good eating habits in little ones is not really complicated, since it’s a habit, and these are more easily acquired in childhood. The complicated thing is to make them like and acquire this habit. For this there are alternatives such as:

  • Being a role model: Frans Folkvord states that children adopt their parents’ behavior, so becoming an example will always be the most conscious and helpful way to influence children. But not only that: with this study, experts propose the promotion food education in schools, that is, create school programs that instill good nutrition. “Providing nutritional education in school environments may have an important positive influence on the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors of children. Positive peer and teacher modeling can encourage students to try new foods for which they exhibited a distaste previously,” says Folkvord.
  • No pressure: It is possible that children generate an almost resounding rejection of certain foods without even having tried them. It is necessary to try again and again, but giving time slots of at least one week. One study showed that if you try to make them taste new and different foods every day at an early age, you will help the child lose their fear of tasting unknown flavors and new textures.

  • Get them involved: Another study carried out by the same author showed that when young people participate in the preparation of healthy foods, there is a greater probability that they will consume products rich in nutrients and, to a lesser extent, foods that are high in sugars and fats, compared to those who do not participate in cooking.
  • Use encouragement: Dr. Maya Adam, director of health education outreach at the Stanford University Health Education Center, says you have to talk about food with children, not to prohibit, but to encourage. This means that, instead of saying “You shouldn’t eat sugar,” it’s much better if we say to our children, “Did you notice how cucumbers taste if you put lemon and salt on them?”

Tell us, do your children eat healthy foods? What methods do you use to achieve this? We are waiting for you in the comment section.