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Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Want Your Kids to Eat Their Greens? Try This Surprisingly Simple Trick

Let’s face it. Kids are the ultimate skeptics, especially when it comes to upbeat songs about broccoli, assurances that peas and carrots are the very reason people grow strong and tall, or stories about Popeye’s spinach dependency.

Recently, however, research has shed some light on why sometimes even our most inventive tactics don’t seem to make healthful food more appealing to kids.

Don’t tell your children it’s good for them

According to a study from the University of Chicago, children are actually more likely to reject food when they know it’s good for them, and all our cajoling often only strengthens their resolve and will make them not eat whatever it is we want them to try.

“You influence what your child eats by choosing to serve certain foods at the table. Adding reasons and trying to convince them to eat often doesn’t work and can actually backfire,” says lead researcher Professor Ayelet Fishbach.

She explains that children seem to think that food can’t serve two purposes: it can’t be healthy and taste good at the same time.

So if you tell your kids that carrots are good for their eyes or will help them read better, it actually makes them less enthusiastic about eating them because they feel that if carrots are so good for them, they can’t possibly be delicious, too.

It’s better to say nothing than to praise the food for its healthiness

The children participating in the study listened to stories about a girl who was having a snack, and were then given a snack of their own. Each time the story presented a certain food as being good for them, the children ate less of it.

For instance, kids rated crackers as less tasty and ate fewer of them when the story mentioned that crackers would help them count to 100.

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So what’s the takeaway for parents?

“Just serve healthy food and make sure all you serve is healthy,” says Fishbach. “You can say that it’s yummy, but we didn’t see that it helps beyond serving the food and saying nothing at all, although it doesn’t hurt either.”

Of course, it’s only natural to want to encourage your kids to eat healthy foods, and your first instinct will probably be to tell them about all the great vitamins and nutrients that will benefit them.

But, if you frequently find yourself engaged in mealtime struggles, a better approach would be to simply bite your tongue and serve that spinach or cabbage without praising its healthiness.

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Be a role model

Another thing to be aware of is that children tend to be very responsive to role models, so when they see their parents eating and enjoying something, they will be more open to eating it as well.

“Serving a personal example is great. Your child will mimic you,” Fishbach explains.

Phil Casey, trainer and assessor of Allied Health courses at Open Colleges and father of two, agrees that giving an example is important, and adds that reducing snacks between meals and giving mealtimes structure can also help kids to form healthier eating habits.

“I cannot stress the importance of family mealtimes enough,” he says. “Giving structure to mealtimes is a good tactic, as children like routine.”

He also warns that;

“Once kids have finished, there should be no coming back as this can generate behaviour that is not ideal at mealtimes, as they will feel that they can just pick at their food and it will still be there later.”

So, in short, don’t make a big deal about serving healthy food, If you want your kids to eat their greens, just serve them and be a role model by eating and enjoying them yourself without going into detail about the nutritional value.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and if you’re already extolling the benefits of broccoli or cabbage before it even hits their plate, they’re going to assume that there is a catch.

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Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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