Getting kids to eat their ‘X-ray’ carrots

carrots

In a recent study, when preschoolers were offered so-called “X-ray vision carrots,” they ate 62 percent more of the vegetable than when the vegetable was referred to as just plain old carrots. “The object of using behavioral economics in school lunch rooms is to guide choices in a way that is subtle enough that children are unaware of the mechanism,” the researchers explain.

CORNELL—A little choice and some creative titles—think “power peas”—can go a long way in getting children to eat their fruits and vegetables, research shows.

The findings suggest school lunch programs could make better use of behavioral economics to understand how biases influence decisions.

In the study, when preschoolers were offered so-called “X-ray vision carrots,” they ate 62 percent more of the vegetable than when the vegetable was referred to as just plain old carrots, and the increased consumption of carrots persisted even the next day.

Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink and behavioral economist David Just report their findings in a recent issue of Choices (published by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association) and outline how the results could be applied in school cafeterias at www.SmarterLunchrooms.org.

For example, instead of coercing children to eat healthier foods by substituting fruit for cookies during snack time, the researchers write, “children can be presented healthy and unhealthy items and be led to willingly choose the good.”

In school, cafeteria workers can prompt children to choose a piece of fruit, or display healthier foods at eye level or more prominently. Even such factors as noise, crowding, and long cafeteria lines may prompt children to choose more “grab and go” foods instead of healthier options, say the researchers.

“The object of using behavioral economics in school lunch rooms is to guide choices in a way that is subtle enough that children are unaware of the mechanism,” write the authors.

Cornell University news: www.news.cornell.edu/

chat15 Comments

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15 Comments

  1. Medisoft

    Before I got to the 4th paragraph I was thinking “uh yeah, it’s called marketing…”. But yeah, the way you present something obviously has an effect on how it is perceived. Any parent knows this, but good the schools may be doing this as well.

  2. Bryan

    But carrots don’t give you x-ray vision. This is no different from promising the kids $100 if they eat more carrots and then not giving them the money when they do. Lying to them may work in the short term, but when they get a little older and realize you’ve been dishonest, you’ll have lost their trust completely.

  3. John

    If agree you Bryan, you can only deceive kids for a while and the long term gain will then be lost. Surely it’sbest to “sex up” the health and nutritional benefits. I would say use fun and games rather than dishonesty.

    World Carrot Museum

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