Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Myth: There are no new ways to help my family eat healthier.

Family DinnerAnswer: BUSTED!

When encouraging your family to eat healthier, try the “nudge” approach instead of the “nag” approach. “Nudges” are small ways to transform an environment and help people make healthier eating choices. These small changes may not be noticed, but they can lead people to adjust their food habits to choosing healthier items. How does this work?

Think like an advertiser! Have you ever looked at a restaurant menu? The titles and descriptions make it hard to pass up anything. Why not try the same method at home? Instead of serving butternut squash, tell your family that they will be having “sweet and spicy slow-roasted butternut squash” (chunks of butternut squash covered lightly with brown sugar and black pepper and oven-roasted until the squash is lightly brown). Research with schoolchildren in New York compared two schools: one that used unexciting menu terms like “carrots” and the other that used the term “x-ray carrots.” Which do you think the children chose more often? The “x-ray carrots,” of course.

Location, location, location! Place healthy snacks like fruit on the kitchen counter so they are in full view and easy to reach. What you see is what you eat. Place cut-up veggies in clear containers upfront in the refrigerator so that is what your family reachs for when snacking.

Rethink your dishes and glasses. When food is portioned on a plate, small dishes make it appear as if you have more food on the dish. Use tall glasses. Studies show that people pour and drink more from a short, wide glass than a tall and narrow one.

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Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933  

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