Smile While Eating Your Veggies and Your Kids Might Just Eat Their Broccoli, Study Shows

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Nutrition: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Health

vegetables and kids

Want your kids to eat their veggies? Smile next time you chomp on a carrot. Credit: AP


If you want your kids to warm up to kale and carrots and not sneak their veggies under the table to the dog, smile the next time you scarf down a salad.

Mmm, mmm good is what your facial expression should convey if you want your kids to enjoy healthy foods. On the flip side, try wincing at the site of chicken nuggets and french fries to seal the deal, Reuters reports.

French researchers asked 120 adults and children ages 5 to 8 to study photos of people eating and discovered kids paid much closer attention to the facial expressions of people while they ate. Adults, on the other hand, zeroed in on body weight and were less likely to eat a food if an obese person was eating it, according to the news service. The findings were published in the journal Obesity.

Kids' food choices were influenced by their emotions, so, if they saw a happy person eating something, regardless of whether the person was thin or fat, they wanted to taste test it, too. If the person looked "disgusted," it turned the kids off, Reuters reports.

Also, if a child disliked the food, seeing a diner with a pleasant expression made the child more open to that food. But that pleasant face was more effective when the person was thin, rather than obese, leading researchers to believe that kids, too, pay attention to some of the negative stereotypes, but are less influenced by them than adults, according to the news service.

"The children's reactions were unexpected," researcher Sylvie Rousset, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, tells Reuters in an email. "To our knowledge, no experiment has shown the influence of 'disgusted' or 'pleasant' faces on children's desire to eat."

The findings suggest parents should put on a happy face when eating healthy foods, Rousset tells the news service, adding that the results should lead researchers to examine more closely the psychological factors involve in eating.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.