Disease Proof

Nutrition Education a Dud?

Maybe all those school food reforms and trying to teach kids to eat better isn’t such a good idea? Because according to new research, nutrition education programs are failing. Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press reports:
An Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat — or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.


"Any person looking at the published literature about these programs would have to conclude that they are generally not working," said Dr. Tom Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine who studies behavioral nutrition.

The results have been disappointing, to say the least:

-Last year a major federal pilot program offering free fruits and vegetables to school children showed fifth graders became less willing to eat them than they had been at the start. Apparently they didn't like the taste.

-In Pennsylvania, researchers went so far as to give prizes to school children who ate fruits and vegetables. That worked while the prizes were offered, but when the researchers came back seven months later the kids had reverted to their original eating habits: soda and chips.

-In studies where children tell researchers they are eating better or exercising more, there is usually no change in blood pressure, body size or cholesterol measures; they want to eat better, they might even think they are, but they're not.
I don’t know, I still think educating people is a smart move—what about you?
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Sue Philipson - July 6, 2007 9:48 AM

A better approach (rather than bribing the kids to eat carrot sticks and celery) is to make the whole plant foods fun and delicious for the younger ones. A Fuhrman dip for those carrot sticks (forget about the celery) would be a whole different story! Kids want to be strong, healthy, at a good weight; they and their parents don't want them on allergy or ADHD meds. Being fat is embarrassing and distressing for them. Most like to try new foods. Telling them that a mango has a pit which looks like a flying saucer is intriguing and fun. A teacher doing a "contrast and compare" lesson on different kinds of crisp-fresh apples (and having the kids sample them) also opens their worlds a bit on flavor differences and in a fun way. I've seen a 3rd grade teacher take health lessons to a more hands-on level--growing food plants, comparing root veggies not through diagrams but with the real thing, etc. The kids loved it. There has to be a more concerted educational effort in each school which involves everyone--staff, parents and the kids. A good wellness coordinator at each school is key to reach the most people.

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