It may come as no surprise that children love smiley faces. They like them in all shapes and colors and they will enjoy it on their food just as they would anywhere else.
A recent study, whose results were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies conference in San Diego, California, that takes place every year, came with surprising findings regarding the way these little emoticons can be related to healthy eating habits.
The researchers revealed that placing a Green Smiley Face near natural, nutritious food and giving kids prizes if they buy it, can help them make better choices in terms of food selection in canteens. This could lead to a smaller incidence of childhood obesity in the future.
The study targeted a public school from Cincinnati, Ohio, which 297 school children were attending. Their ages varied, as they were of different levels, from kindergarten to sixth grade. Two interventions were carried out during this study. Firstly, four of the healthiest foods in the cafeteria were each labeled with a smiley face emoticon.
These foods included vegetables, fruit, whole grains and plain fat-free milk. Secondly, after three months into the study had passed, the kids were also given symbolic prizes like stickers or mini beach balls if they chose the meal that comprised of all these four foods.
After analyzing the cash register receipts to examine what the children had purchased, the researchers realized that the four types of food recorded an increase in sales. The children’s preference for plain milk was the most significant one, with kids purchasing 500 % more than they used to (while chocolate milk dropped in their preferences by 42 percent in sales).
Vegetables were also bought significantly more (60 %) as well as fruit (20 %). Even if the little customers seemed to have steered clear of the whole grain entree, the “Power Plate” containing all the four types of foods increased by 335 %. The whole trial lasted 5 months.
The outcome of the research proved that the technique of adding smiley emoticons to healthy food and awarding them small prizes when they purchase them could be a very efficient method that involves little or no cost. This could help improve their diet and promote healthy eating habits. In the long term, it can prevent them from becoming obese.
According to author study Robert Siegel, MD, FAAP, medical director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, this method could be employed by all the schools which want to encourage children to adjust their diet in a positive way.
The efficiency of the method should not be doubted, given the fact that many companies producing unhealthy food employ it – crisps bags, fast food meals, chocolate eggs come with surprises to attract children into buying them. The same can be done with nutritious food.
Childhood obesity has long become a very serious matter worldwide and every effort should be made to impede an escalation in the percentage of kids suffering from it.
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