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Hey Wild One.

Want your kids to make healthy choices about what they eat—especially at school? Wish you could teach them how to stop when they’ve had enough and indulge in moderation? Dreaming about the day your child asks for fruit instead of a cookie?

Don’t we all?!

Good news is, that’s all possible! And it’s actually so simple to get to that promised land of healthy children. Let’s look at the science of how…

An interesting study recently considered the link between self-control and portion size in children. Given a plate of cookies and told to eat as many as they liked, young test subjects ate 25% less when those cookies were cut in half.

Looking at our global obesity epidemic, findings like these are essential, right? But…it’s really not enough to simply decrease the quantity of junk food our children eat; ideally, they’d not be choosing any junk (non-foods) at all!

But attempts to ban all those crispy bags of hydrogenated oil and trans fat (and bubbly cans of sugar water) have met with staunch opposition—especially around the United States. Texas went so far as to pass a “Safe Cupcake Amendment” (commonly known as Lauren’s Law), which protects parents’ and family members’ rights to bring whatever they want to school to celebrate their little one’s birthday…

Okay, some parents will demand the right to celebrate their children by feeding them chemical-laden, disease-causing processed goodies. It’s a free country.

What would happen, though, if we gave children the chance to choose for themselves, offering both sugary sweets and juicy, ripe fruits?

In my own experience, kids are thrilled to have fresh fruit to eat.

At a recent birthday party with Ever Love, I promised I’d find her something yummy (and vegan) that she could enjoy when dessert was served. When we went to the table and sat in front of the fruit platter, Ever’s eyes nearly popped out of her head with excitement. She ate the equivalent of two beautifully ripe kiwi fruits, five strawberries and three slices of melon while others ate cake. She loved it.

No one else had offered their children fruit instead of cake, so I also passed around a fruit platter that was already there. Of about 10 kids, only one didn’t take any; the rest were delighted. 

We underestimate our children, don’t you think?

Researchers found the same thing. When they added bowls of fresh, sliced fruit to the table at a kindergarten birthday party—without making any particular attempt to push the fruit on the partygoers—on average, every child ate a full serving size of fruit!

Some schools are starting to offer food education as part of the year-round programming, featuring a “veggie of the month” and spreading nutrition maxims such as, ’‘Fiber equals a happy tummy.’’ These kinds of initiatives work. Young children engage with their food, learn about nutrition, and have fun doing it! And, most importantly, they eat more veggies as a result.

One school even managed to double students’ consumption of veggies just by changing the names. For example, “X-ray Vision Carrots” were twice as appealing to elementary school students, compared to regular old carrots or “Veggie of the Day.” Tiny Tasty Tree Tops were more than 100% more attractive than broccoli.

This is not rocket science. Offering children healthy food options—combined with trying to make those foods look and sound appealing—will lead to healthier choices. More schools should be doing this! How about suggesting it at yours?

And, here’s another secret: When plant-based meals are so delicious and satisfying that your children don’t want anything else, you don’t need any special names or tricks to get them to eat healthy. Check out Wild Nutrition: Your 30-Day Revolution to Plant-Based Vitality to learn more about cooking and eating for your and your family’s best health!

xx

Donna

Resource:
N. Beasley, S. Sharma, R. Shegog, R. Huber, P. Abernathy, C. Smith, D. Hoelscher. The quest to Lava Mountain: Using video games for dietary change in children. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012 112(9):1334 – 1336.
D. Marchiori, L. Waroquier, O. Klein. ‘Split them!’ smaller item sizes of cookies lead to a decrease in energy intake in children. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 May-Jun;44(3):251-5.
K. K. Isoldi, S. Dalton, D. P. Rodriguez, M. Nestle. Classroom cupcake celebrations: Observations of foods offered and consumed. J Nutr Educ Behav 2012 44(1):71 – 75.
C. A. Johnston, J. L. Palcic, C. Tyler, S. Stansberry, R. S. Reeves, J. P. Foreyt. Increasing vegetable intake in Mexican-American youth: A randomized controlled trial. J Am Diet Assoc 2011 111(5):716 – 720.
A. Olsen, C. Ritz, L. Kramer, P. Moller. Serving styles of raw snack vegetables. What do children want? Appetite 2012 59(2):556 – 562.
J. O. Fisher, J. A. Mennella, S. O. Hughes, Y. Liu, P. M. Mendoza, H. Patrick. Offering dip promotes intake of a moderately-liked raw vegetable among preschoolers with genetic sensitivity to bitterness. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012 112(2):235 – 245.