Every day, we hear something on the news about the obesity crisis in this country. And every day, parents, grandparents, doctors, dietitians, and the First Lady try to find a new way to encourage kids to eat healthy. In my profession, we preach that being an example to kids, parent encouragement, and filling your home with healthy options are some the keys to help your child know how to make the best choices when they are on their own. But a new study published by researchers at Cornell University shows we have been missing a “super” important piece of the puzzle.
Yes, Batman, appears to be the key to wellness.
In a study published in Pediatric Obesity, 22 children ages 6-12 were offered “apple fries” (raw apple slices) or French fries during several Wednesday lunches at a summer camp. During one lunch, the children were shown 12 pictures of superheroes and role models, and asked “what would this person eat?” The researcher hypothesized that the children who imagined the superheroes eating apples would be more likely to choose the apples for themselves. They were correct.
Forty-five percent of the children chose to eat the apple slices over French fries at lunch after the pictures were shown. When not shown the pictures, only 9 percent of the children chose the apples slices during the lunch meal.
So how does this relate to your children? By asking your child, “What would Batman eat?” you are empowering the child to select the healthy food. Switching from fries to apples slices during a weekly trip to a fast food restaurant will cut about 200 calories per trip. It might not seem like much, but eating an extra 200 calories a week will equal a weight gain of approximately three pounds a year. Start asking your child what foods their favorite superhero or athlete might eat, and then give them the same options.
When it comes to healthy eating, let’s take all the superpowers we can get.
Beth Wallace, a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has more than six years of experience in providing nutrition care for children and adolescents.
How do you encourage your children to make healthy food choices?