A new study states that smiley face and giving gifts to children can make children eat more nutritious meals.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego, CA., states that smiley faces and giving small gifts to kids for purchasing nutritious foods could be an alternative way to avoid poor food selection in school canteens.
For their study, the researchers kept smiley face emoticons near the four healthiest foods in the cafeteria. These four foods were plain white fat free milk, vegetables, fruits, and entrée with whole grains. After three months in the same academic year, in addition to emoticons, the students were given small prizes like mini beach balls, temporary tattoo or stickers if they chose “Power Plate,” which was defined as a meal consisting of the four healthiest foods. The power plate selections were directly monitored by the researchers for the five month trial.
The researchers found that plain white fat free milk sales increased by over 500% and chocolate milk selection decreased from 86.5% percent to 44.6% over the five-month period. It was also noted that vegetable selections and fruit selections increased at 62% and 20% respectively per student per day. The researchers didn’t find any significant changes for entrée with whole grains and total milk purchase, the power plate selection increased by 335%.
Dr. Robert Siegel, medical director of the Center for Better Health and Nutrition of the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the lead author of the study, said, “It looks like we found a very promising, low-cost and effective way of improving the nutrition of elementary school children. This type of program may be a useful component in schools trying to improve the nutrition and health of their students.”
Researchers also added that this is not a new strategy, as many fast food corporations also sell toys with their food.