Could a competition get your children to choose healthier foods?

Could a competition get your children to choose healthier foods?

Getting children to eat healthy fruits and vegetables may be a struggle for some parents, and a contest could be the answer to get them to eat their greens.

A study carried out suggested that playing to a youngster's competitive streak was likely to result in a third of them choosing more healthy foods; with girls more likely to respond to competition in vegetable-eating than boys.

Dr Jonathan James, from the University of Bath, told The Independent: "Through our research we found that introducing an element of competition at lunchtime could have larger effects on children’s eating habits than using an incentive scheme that was based only on their own choices.

“By using a different approach, we found that the proportion of children trying fruit and vegetables could be increased by up to a third."

The study involved more than 600 pupils aged six to 10 in 31 English schools. For the "individual" scheme, pupils were given a sticker if they chose a portion of fruit or vegetables at lunchtime, or brought one in as part of a packed lunch. They were given an extra reward if they picked, or brought in, more than four of the foods over the course of a week.

Pupils in the competition scheme were randomly assigned into groups of four and the pupil with the most stickers in each group won the additional prize.

Professor Michèle Belot, of the University of Edinburgh, also commented: "Using incentives, particularly with children, is often controversial. Yet many parents use incentives to encourage positive behaviour from their children. Our research shows that certain incentives do work, and in particular work for groups of children that typically respond little or not at all to other health-promoting interventions, such as boys and children from poorer backgrounds."

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