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Pester Power

Kids can influence their parents to eat more veggies.

Educating kids on nutrition

“Mom, can we eat more broccoli? Please? Please? Please?” You may think kids pestering their parents to eat healthier food is a dream, but researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences showed that—when you educate kids on the virtues of nutrition in a fun way—it can become reality.

The team interviewed parents whose children had participated in weekly “Together, We Inspire Smart Eating” (WISE) lessons for 1 year, inspired by a cartoon owl named Windy who promoted healthy eating habits. The results, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that the “pester power” from school children in response to this program was associated with a movement toward parents themselves eating more healthful foods. Improvements included eating more fruits and vegetables and using parenting practices that better supported healthy diets for their children.

This suggests that children’s dietary influence at home—and their talent for nagging—could be an overlooked way to improve eating behaviors in households and a target for future interventions. It’s an uphill battle against the companies that market junk food to the younger generation, but there’s still hope for children requesting more spinach on the dinner table.

See also: An App to Help Kids Eat Better

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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