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Small rewards help kids eat fruits and vegetables

Research from Brigham Young University and Cornell found

Research from Brigham Young University and Cornell found paying children a small reward helped them eat more fruit and vegetables. Credit: Handout

Would you pay your kids to eat healthfully? If you're shaking your head no, you may want to reconsider. A recent study from Brigham Young University (BYU) found that giving children a small reward may double their fruit and vegetable consumption.

According to a BYU news release, researchers from BYU and Cornell observed three schools that were adjusting to new school lunch standards requiring a serving of fruit or vegetables on every student's tray -- whether the child intends to eat it or not. Students discarded 70 percent of the extra fruit and vegetables, as reported in the journal of Public Health Nutrition.

Researchers then measured the effect of small rewards in the lunchroom in 15 different schools. Some kids could earn a nickel, others a quarter and others a raffle ticket for a larger prize. The study found that fruit and vegetable consumption rose by 80 percent among students offered a small reward.

Is bribery the way to go? "Parents are often misguided about incentives," Joe Price, a BYU economics professor, said in a news release. "We feel a sense of dirtiness about a bribe. But rewards can be really powerful if the activity creates a new skill or changes preferences."

This method is also used during potty training -- which many parents, including myself, use as encouragement. As I motivate my 2-year-old to potty train, I've noticed how excited she gets after receiving a sticker or lollipop once she's used the toilet. Eating fruits has never been an issue for my daughter, but I may have to try this strategy at dinner tonight so she'll actually eat veggies instead of throwing them onto the floor.

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