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Telling Preschoolers Foods Are Good for Them May Backfire

Children rate foods as less tasty, consume less when food is presented as trying to achieve health goal

FRIDAY, July 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Preschool children consume less food when it is presented as instrumental to achieving a health goal, according to research published online June 12 in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Michal Maimaran, Ph.D., from Northwestern University in Chicago, and Ayelet Fishbach, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, examined the correlation between instrumental benefits to which caregivers refer in order to convince preschoolers to eat specific foods and consumption of these foods. Data were collected from five studies conducted in preschool children using different food items and instrumental messages.

The researchers found that crackers presented as instrumental to achieving a health goal were rated as less tasty by preschoolers (age 3 to 5.5 years old), who then consumed fewer crackers. When carrots and crackers were presented as instrumental to knowing how to read and count, respectively, preschoolers consumed fewer carrots and crackers.

"Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasizing how yummy the food actually is," the authors conclude.

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