Could eating veggies really be as easy as looking at a picture?
A University of Minnesota study suggests just that: On a regular day at an elementary school of over 700 kids in Richfield, Minn., 77 kids took carrots with their lunch, and 42 took green beans.
When their lunch trays bore pictures of carrots and green beans, those numbers shot up to 238 carrot-choosers, and 96 green bean eaters.
Researchers hypothesize that one reason the pictures were so powerful is that the kids thought their friends would choose veggies.
"What kids want to do is what their friends are doing or what they think their friends are doing," said Traci Mann, a psychology researcher.
The district had tried other strategies to increase vegetable consumption, such as putting veggies first in line in attractive containers, but this was the first thing that had worked, nutrition services supervisor Deb LaBounty told the University of Minnesota Daily.
"Kids don't want to listen when you tell them what to do," LaBounty said. "The photographs make them think that's what all the other kids are doing."
Photographs can be attached to lunch trays for about $3 and 20 minutes per 100 trays, the authors note.
But did the kids actually eat them? Each student ate about 19.1 grams of green beans, about 1/6th cup, on the study day (opposed to 19 grams on the control day), and 27.1 grams of carrots, about two large carrots, on the study day (compared with 31 grams on the control day, meaning that the kids who tried them for the first time probably ate less.
Overall, veggie consumption remained below government recommendations.
Image credit: iStockPhoto