Everyone agrees kids should eat healthy foods. But parents are often left out of that message. skynesher/E+ via Getty Images

Most parents, educators and policymakers agree that children should eat healthy foods. However, our peer-reviewed paper suggests the strategy adults often use to achieve that can sometimes backfire. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

We, along with fellow marketing scholars Lingrui Zhou and Gavan Fitzsimons, conducted five experiments with over 3,800 parents as well as 10 in-depth interviews. We found that parents tend to choose unhealthy foods for themselves after choosing a healthy meal for their young children. This happens because parents said they are uncertain whether their child will eat their healthy dishes, and so they use their own meal as backup to share to ensure that their child at least eats something.

This dynamic is not ideal. For one, it could result in parents eating unhealthier foods, and children may also end up eating unhealthily if they eat mostly from their parent’s plate. Additionally, it does not set a good example of healthy eating.

How, then, to change this dynamic?

After testing several interventions, one stood out as particularly simple and effective: nudging parents to think of their meals as their own, rather than backup options for their kids.

We partnered with a nursery school that was interested in promoting healthier eating among children. Parents associated with the school were offered a free family dinner. Parents first chose a meal for their child from a healthy kid’s menu. They then chose a meal for themselves from a menu that had a mix of healthy and unhealthy options. Half of the parents – randomly assigned – saw a menu that prompted them to think of their own meal as “for you and only you!” The other half did not see this additional prompt to think of their own meal as only for them.

This intervention was successful: By encouraging parents to think of their meal as their own, it made about a third more likely to choose the healthy option for themselves.

Our findings suggest policymakers and schools may want to consider the role parents – and their food choices – play in efforts to encourage healthy eating among children. As for parents, we suggest nixing the backup plan and making sure both they and their children are eating nutritiously.The Conversation

Kelley Gullo Wight, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Indiana University and Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and Associate Professor of Business Administration, University of Pittsburgh

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Related Books:

Here are 5 non-fiction books on parenting that are currently Best Sellers on Amazon.com:

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

This book provides practical strategies for parents to help their children develop emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and resilience using insights from neuroscience.

Click for more info or to order

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The authors of The Whole-Brain Child offer guidance for parents to discipline their children in a way that promotes emotional regulation, problem-solving, and empathy.

Click for more info or to order

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This classic book provides practical communication techniques for parents to connect with their children and foster cooperation and respect.

Click for more info or to order

The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being

by Simone Davies

This guide offers insights and strategies for parents to implement Montessori principles at home and foster their toddler's natural curiosity, independence, and love of learning.

Click for more info or to order

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting

by Dr. Laura Markham

This book offers practical guidance for parents to shift their mindset and communication style to foster connection, empathy, and cooperation with their children.

Click for more info or to order