Kids Aren’t Buying into Healthy Eating

Childhood obesity has caused education and society rethink the way that children eat and play. Even Shaq has addressed the issue of exercise and nutrition. School cafeterias are covered with healthy eating posters and pictures of pop stars drinking milk and eating fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that the government spends as much as $1 billion dollars each year to distribute videos, posters, and lessons that address healthy lifestyles.

Although various education and incentive programs have been developed to lure kids into better foods, studies show that the programs are not very effective. One study conducted gave free fruits and vegetables to fifth grade students. Research showed that the students were actually less likely to eat the foods at the end of the program because once the food was tried the children did not like the taste.

Another program tried giving prizes to students who ate healthy foods. All was well as long as the incentives were available. However, the children went back to junk food once the prizes were not longer offered.

Pediatricians and researchers alike have noted several obstacles when it comes to encouraging children to make better eating choices. Studies show that children have usually developed likes and dislikes for particular taste by the time they reach ten years old. Therefore, targeting children above this age may not be effective. Low-income and poverty situations are also a concern. Processed, unhealthy foods are usually cheaper and more accessible for low-income families. Poor neighborhood grocery stores usually do not carry fresh fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it may not be as easy for these families to make healthy choices.

Programs that are behavior oriented and address the need for more physical activity and exercise may produce more effective results than focusing on eating habits. Either way, taking junk and coke vending machines out of schools cannot hurt.

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