Kids eat better by knowing benefits

Q: I can't get my 9-year-old to eat vegetables-and we set a good example, sneak them into smoothies, give them funny names, all the stuff that people suggest. Nothing works. Any new suggestions?-Doreen J., Fort Lee, New Jersey

A: When Popeye the sailor appeared on television and in color in the 1950s singing, "I'm strong to the finich, 'cause I eats me spinach," he convinced a lot of kids that spinach was super-cool. It turns out that wasn't just a flash in the pan. A new study from Washington State University found that you can effectively influence your child's food choices if you tie a previously rejected tid-bit to some benefit your child values. The researchers' example: Tell them, "Eat your lentils if you want to grow bigger and run faster." After all, what kid doesn't want to run faster?

The researchers worked with 87 kids ages 3-5 for six weeks and discovered that the kids ate twice as much healthy food when they were told how it would benefit them. Here's the key: They were told in terms they could understand. Say the researchers, your sales pitch should be based in solid science.

Now, you'll have to do a bit of research, Mom, to discover all the benefits, but here are a few you can use:

1. "Salmon makes you smarter, and your homework easier." (That's because of the healthy fats, omega-3s.)

2. "Spinach helps you avoid getting hurt on the playground." (It contains calcium that builds strong bones.)

3. "Carrots can help you see farther." (Vitamin A boosts eye health.)

So get creative at the table, and if your child is more into books than sports, talk about broccoli as a great way to outsmart the Grinch! Or lentils as a way to help Winnie the Pooh find his way through the Hundred Acre Wood. In a couple of weeks, you'll be surprised at the changes you see.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected].


(c)2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

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