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Showing kids photos of vegetables may get them to eat a bit more

February 01, 2012|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Adding photos of vegetables to school lunch trays may prompt kids to eat a bit more, a study finds.
Adding photos of vegetables to school lunch trays may prompt kids to eat… (David Karp )

Kids don't always eat their vegetables, but does showing them photos of veggies make them consume more?

A research letter published online Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. employed about 800 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at one elementary school in Minnesota as study subjects. On two separate days in 2011 they received a school lunch; on the first day it was business as usual, as the kids helped themselves to the foods available.

A few months later they had the same meal, but this time their trays were fitted with photographs of the vegetables they served: green beans and carrots. Researchers, who were from the University of Minnesota, noted how many students took the vegetables each day, as well as how much of them were eaten.

The results showed some promise: significantly more students took vegetables on the photo day compared with the non-photo day. Eating them was a different story, however -- no differences were seen in consumption of green beans between the two days among those who took them, and the amount of carrots eaten was higher on the non-photo day.

But overall more vegetables were eaten on the photo day, since more children took them.

The study authors noted that adding photos to the trays required no special training and was fairly inexpensive--it cost about $3 and took 20 minutes per 100 trays. "The number of students taking vegetables and the amounts consumed, however," they wrote, "remained low and did not yet meet government recommendations."

They added since the study only lasted two days in one school, more research is needed to see if the intervention works in other settings and if the effects last over time.

School lunches have been in the spotlight lately, as childhood obesity rates continue to be a concern. Recently changes in school lunch programs were announced, with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on the way.

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