If you’re fed up with negotiating with your child to try “just one bite” of a new healthy food, a recent study suggests that framing your request from the point of view of your child may help.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior looked at what motivates children to try new foods. When researchers at Washington State University tried two different approaches — repeated exposure to a new food item and “child-centered nutrition phrases” — they found that the latter approach led children to eat more of the new food over a period of several weeks.
What are child centered nutrition phrases?
A child-centered nutrition phrase is something you say to your child about why the food on their plate matters to them. Rather than telling a child to try a banana, you would say something like, “Those bananas will give you more energy to run in gym class today.” Instead of counting out how many green beans a child should eat, you could say, “The green beans on your plate will help your muscles get stronger.”
According to the study, kids who know why they should eat something are more likely to try it. While the results were somewhat mixed depending on the location where the experiment took place, the outcome offers a new tool in the parenting toolbox.
We’ve heard time and again that parents should expose their children to healthy foods, broadening their nutritional horizons by continuously offering new food options. It turns out that while exposing children repeatedly to new foods is helpful, telling kids what’s in it for them can be even more beneficial.