Planning may help kids to eat healthy

Getting children to plan exactly how, when and where they will eat fruit and vegetables – as well telling them about the benefits of such foods – could encourage healthy eating.

This is the finding of Lucy Gratton and colleagues at the Centre for Health Psychology, Staffordshire University. Their findings will be reported today, Monday 1 October 2007, in the British Journal of Health Psychology (advance copies available on request).

At the start of their study the researchers gave questionnaires to children aged between 11 and 16-years-old asking questions such as ‘for me to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for the next seven days it would be very bad/very good’. They also asked them to fill in a seven-day food diary to record the type of fruit and vegetables they had eaten per day and the quantities in terms of portion sizes.

At the start of the second week children were then placed in a group where they had to write down how, when and where they would eat five portions of fruit and veg a day for the next week. Other children were placed in a group where they were asked to complete a health education activity sheet about their beliefs concerning eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The remaining children were placed in a ‘control group’ and asked about how, when and where they would complete their homework.

The researchers found that both of the healthy eating techniques helped to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children, but stating how, when and where to eat them produced the best results when compared to the control group.

Mrs Gratton said: “Getting children to say ‘I will eat an apple in the playground at 10am after my morning lesson’ seems to be successful in increasing fruit and vegetable intake. If we combine this with teaching children about the benefits of healthy eating we may be able to increase fruit and veg intake among children.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Douglas Brown, Public Relations Officer, or one of her colleagues in the media centre, tel: 0116 252 9500 or 07793 800366 (mobile).

Date:      Tuesday 25 September 2007

Ref:        PR1289

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