Trying to talk your suddenly fussy-eating toddler into eating a few peas can be a struggle. But telling her the greens will make her big and strong or fit and brainy could make it even worse.
So, say US researchers, whose new study suggest that lecturing kids about the health benefits of food can actually put them off.
So much so, in fact, say the scientists, that hearing that foods are good for them, actually makes children think they taste bad!
So what do you do? Well, the researchers, writing in the Journal of Consumer Research, suggest we should emphasise how yummy the veg are instead.
They point to their study, of 3 to 5-year-olds, where, before a meal, the children were read a picture book story about a girl who ate a snack of crackers or carrots.
For some of the children, the story focused on the health benefits of the snack (making you strong or helping you learn how to count); for the others, the bits about the health benefits were missed out.
The children were then given the snack food featured in the story – and those children who hadn’t read about the health benefits ate more.
“Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or perhaps emphasising how yummy the food actually is,” say lead researchers Michal Maimaran of Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago.