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Selling Kids on Vegetables

March 18, 2017
Plain English Version

Some Howard County, Md., schools have all-you-can-eat salad bars at the front of their cafeterias. Photo credit: Nicholas Griner Howard County Public School System.

How to get kids to eat vegetables? Marketing is the answer. You can call it tricks or just good ideas. Whatever works.

School lunchrooms are the testing place. Here are some of the things they are doing.

Fruits and vegetables should be up front. One school put an “all you can eat” salad bar at the front of the lunch line. The salad bar had colorful foods to entice the students. The number of kids buying school lunches went up. Studies show an appetizing salad bar works. When kids are hungry, giving them small cups of vegetables is also a good idea. Give the vegetables to kids just before they get on the lunch line.

Give the vegetables cool names such as X-Ray Carrots or Turbo Tomatoes. Branding icons, such as Elmo stickers, also attract children.

Show the kids food preparation. Do it in a splashy style. In one school, the principal introduces new foods.  

You should collect data. Schools are tracking what kids eat and what they throw away. One way is to track each student. One school sends the information home at the end of the week. The parent can learn how to make up for either too many or too few calories in different food groups.

Try bringing in professional chefs. Sometimes ask them to cook. Sometimes ask them to provide advice on menus and food preparation. They know how to make vegetables look good, such as when roasting a vegetable. Roasted veggies taste and look better than raw veggies. One chef-inspired idea is to offer nachos with low-fat cheese.

Teaching kids about vegetables is a good idea. Field trips to farms can be helpful. Learning about foods should be fun. Have ‘Rainbow Days’ when kids can try different colored veggies. One school makes use of smells and other senses to explore how foods look, smell, taste and feel on the tongue. Kids connect with this approach.

Teaching kids to read food labels creates awareness. Having a cooking program teaches new skills and interests.

Eating is the one thing we all do. It is time to make good food a main course in the schools.

Source: The Wall Street Journal February 24, 2017

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