Getting kids to eat healthy is a challenge. Most children would rather munch on salty chips and chocolate bars than enjoy a plate of steaming broccoli. Unfortunately, kids with a "sweet tooth" can end up carrying around too many pounds when they enter adolescence. What's the solution? According to a new U.K.study, the answer may lie in how healthy food is perceived by kids.
The Challenges of Getting Kids to Eat Healthy
Researchers in the U.K. realize that kids love snacks that come in bright, colorful packages – particularly if their favorite cartoon character or superhero is on the box. Unfortunately, most of the snacks that come in colorful boxes with superheroes on them are not good choices from a health standpoint. They're too high in salt or sugar – or completely devoid of nutrients. Too bad Popeye doesn't have the influence he once had – at least he made eating spinach cool.
A Way to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
In 1997, the U.K. did a study on how character marketing affected kids willingness to eat vegetables and fruits. They developed and marketed a group of characters with kid appeal called the Food Dudes. Two-hundred kids were shown videos where the Food Dudes encouraged them to eat more fruits and vegetables – and they were given rewards such as small toys or stickers when they did so. Not only did this type of presentation inspire kids to eat healthy fruits and vegetables – but they continued to eat them for months after the study ended. Such is the power of larger than life characters and superheros for getting kids to eat healthy.
How to Use These Principles to Get Kids to Eat Healthy
You won't find many superheroes or other cool characters endorsing healthy eating in the United States – at least not yet; but parents can still use some of the principles of character marketing to get their kids to eat healthy. A parent could focus in on a child's favorite superhero and send the message that he wouldn't have gotten big and strong without eating his fruits and vegetables. There are also television shows such as Sesame Street that reinforce the importance of health to kids. At one time, they sponsored a "Health Habits for Kids" series that taught kids good eating habits. Healthy programming like this is a good substitute for shows that sponsor too many junk food commercials.
Another way to encourage kids to eat healthy is to reinforce good eating habits by giving them stickers with their favorite characters and superheroes on them – but only when they finish their plate of vegetables. Challenge them to eat healthy so they can grow up strong like their favorite superhero. Use these types of positive reinforcements and watch those vegetables disappear.