An innovative study suggests that something as small as labeling healthy foods with a small smiley face can make kids more interested in buying and consuming healthy food.

Image via Foodorama.

When it comes to kids, convincing them to eat healthy food can be a gargantuan task – heck, it’s even hard to convince adults to eat properly, let alone kids. But the good news is that kids can be much more receptive to things as packaging, as was confirmed by another study – it found a 62% increase in the purchase of vegetables, and 20% increase in fruit purchases all thanks to this new approach.

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Study author Robert Siegel from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre 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 programme may be a useful component in schools trying to improve the nutrition and health of their students,” Siegel emphasized.

They designed a two stage intervention and tested it on kids from kindergarten to the sixth grade. In the first stage, they labeled healthy foods such as milk, vegetables, fruits and whole grains with smiley faces. They reported a massive increase in the consumption of all the products: 20% for fruits, 62% for vegetables and a whopping 549% for low-fat milk, while the consumption of products like chocolate milk dropped significantly.

Three months later, they started the second stage, introducing a new concept – the “Power Plate”, which consisted of four healthy foods. The Power Plate came with a bonus, such as a sticker, temporary tattoo or mini beach ball. Prizes were given out at various times during the intervention if researchers saw a student with the four healthy foods/beverage. Power Plate selection increased 335 percent from baseline.

These results are certainly encouraging, and it shows just how far small things can go when it comes to nutrition. After all, we’re bombarded with ads for unhealthy food all the time, so the least we can do is make healthier foods attractive – even if it’s just a smiley face. Still, I’m a bit skeptical, wondering if these results would be maintained over a longer period of time. If it’s just a short period or a one-time thing, then novelty has to be factored in, and this would be less viable as a long-term solution. Still, putting smiley faces on healthy foods seems like a really good idea to me. Hope we’ll see something like this implemented soon.