Are you as an educator having trouble getting kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables? Do your clients struggle with getting their children to get the necessary servings of fruits and veggies per day?
A new plate may help!
A recent study in a Colorado preschool found that providing children’s plates with compartments with images of fruits and veggies increased how many fruits and vegetables the kids added to their plates and then consumed.
The study included 325 children. For three days during lunchtime in one week, kids were given plates with pictures of fruits and vegetables. Observations were done to see how much food they added to their plates and ate. Those days were then compared to three days in a prior week when the children used plain white plates.
An increase was observed in both fruit and vegetable consumption. The children consumed more veggies with the experimental plates, eating an average of 28 grams of vegetables versus 21 grams with regular white plates. The pattern continued with fruit. When using experimental plates, the kids served themselves approximately 64 grams of fruit, which was an increase from about 60 grams previously.
Emily Melnick, the study’s co-author, states, “Pictures on lunch plates may indicate a social norm of vegetable and fruit consumption to nudge children’s dietary behaviors in a classroom setting. These pictures suggest that other children take fruits and vegetables from classroom serving bowls and place them in those compartments and that they should do the same.”
The kids in the experiment, similar to children in several preschool classrooms, ate family-style meals. This type of dining behavior can encourage children to regulate their food intake, feel in control regarding food choices, learn about food, and recognize hunger levels.
While this is heartening news, there is still a ways to go in terms of getting kids to eat vegetables. For example, according to the CDC, children’s fruit intake has increased but their fruit and vegetable intake remains too low.
Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dietitian in private practice notes that it’s not clear if the classroom experiment could be repeated at home with family meals or lead to long-term changes in children’s eating habits. She states, “If this is repeatable at home, it can be a simple technique practiced by families and have a significant impact on their long-term health.“
“We know that early childhood dietary behaviors can affect […] food choices and eating decisions into adulthood,” Sheth added. “If something as simple as putting pictures on plates to encourage food choice and amount can work, it’s worth a try.”
One resource that might help is Food and Health’s variety of My Plate Plates: https://nutritioneducationstore.com/collections/myplate-plates.
By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
- Li, Meng, Melnick, E Association of plate design with consumption of fruits and vegetables among preschool children. JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 6, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1915
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.