If you want your kids to eat healthy foods, keep your mouth shut at the dinner table. That means don’t tell them that the broccoli on their plate is good for them. That goes for the carrots and cauliflower, too.
According to the results of a new study, telling preschoolers that the foods they eat might benefit them is the surest way to get them to push their plate away in disgust.
Researchers from Chicago recently conducted five studies focusing on children between the ages of three and five. In each, the kids were required to read a picture book about a girl who ate a snack of crackers and carrots, with some learning the health benefits of the snack as part of the book, while others did not.
“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 will conclude the food is not as tasty and, therefore, consume less of it,” said researchers Michal Maimaran of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a news release.
Researchers found that their predictions were correct, and kids who didn’t learn the benefits ate more of a snack than those that did, proving that at least in this case, it’s what we know that might hurt us, rather than the other way around.
“This explanation suggests that children learn through experience that food presented as healthy is less tasty, and thus, they consume less of it, compared to when the food is presented as tasty or with no accompanying method,” researchers said in the Journal of Consumer Research, published by the University of Chicago Press.
The researchers said their findings could prove beneficial for future marketing campaigns, since they could be used to encourage de-emphasizing the benefits of healthy products, so “children may be more likely to eat certain foods as well as experience a more enjoyable snack or meal that’s actually good for them,” they said.