Storybooks Get Kids to Eat Their Veggies
More than one-third of American kids are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Junk food drives part of this obesity epidemic.
Storybooks that teach kids why they need different nutrients lead them to choose healthier snacks.
Sarah Gripshover and Ellen Markman, both developmental psychologists, first created a series of five storybooks to teach young children about nutrition. The books show how the body uses a variety of nutrients from different foods to power diverse biological functions.
Next, the researchers randomly assigned 4- and 5-year-old preschoolers either to the storybook condition, in which their teachers read the five books to them over the course of several weeks, or to the control condition, in which the children did not hear or see the books.
The researchers then secretly observed what the children chose to eat at snack time. Gripshover and Markman’s team discovered that preschoolers in the storybook condition increased the amount of vegetables they selected from an average of 4 pieces to an average of 9 pieces. Preschoolers in the control condition, in contrast, did not choose more vegetables over time.
In a follow-up study, the researchers compared their storybooks to kid-friendly information from the USDA. The researchers’ storybooks proved more effective at teaching preschoolers how nutrition works and at promoting healthier snack-time choices.
Why This Works
Young kids think of food as a source of energy, not nutrition. Teaching preschoolers about nutrition helps them understand why they should eat vegetables, which in turn inspires them to choose healthier snacks.
When This Works Best
This intervention works best for young children who do not understand nutrition and who have access to healthy food.
Gripshover, S. J., & Markman, E. M. (2013). Teaching young children a theory of nutrition: Conceptual change and the potential for increased vegetable consumption. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1541-1553.