Here’s something my mom didn’t do when I was a kid. Offer up vegetables with an emoji. It was more of a demand to eat the vegetables. Today? It’s all about convincing kids to eat the damn broccoli.

Hey, kids, I get it. I wasn’t a fan either. For whatever reason, when you get older, you actually start to like it. And, you start to turn away from the junk food you ate as a kid. Sorry, fruit roll-ups. There’s such a thing as too much sugar.

New research from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that simple changes can create an environment in which your kid will select healthy foods. The selection rate during the study went up 300 percent over other, less healthy lunch options.

It could be they are tired of the square school cafeterias try pass off as a pizza.

Study Details

Researchers at an inner-city elementary school in Cincinnati, OH made two small changes to the lunch menu offered to the kindergartens through sixth-graders at the school.

First, healthy food options in the cafeteria were labeled with a green smiley face emoticon. Menu items with the label included fruits, vegetables, fat-free milk and a meal with whole grains.

At the three-month mark, researchers added a menu item called the ‘Power Plate.’ It included the foods from the first menu tweak, along with small prizes such as stickers, miniature beach balls, and temporary tattoos.

The results were stark at the cafeteria register. Plain milk sales went from 7.4 percent of total milk sales to 48 percent. Chocolate milk sales saw a decrease. Sales of vegetables jumped 62 percent, and fruit added 20 percent.

Sales of the ‘Power Plate’ tripled over the three-month period. I wonder how many beach balls were taken away in classes after lunch?

Marketing Against Childhood Obesity

According to the CDC, more than one-third of all children in the United States are overweight or obese. To call it an epidemic is understating its current and future health impacts. Obesity is a prime risk factor for diabetes in children, along with other major health issues down the road.

smiley face healthy foods

This ‘Happy Meal’ trick is just one way to get kids to adopt better eating habits. Not having healthy food deserts in urban and rural school districts is vital to combating obesity.

A big push from Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign has been the push for healthy eating options in cafeterias. Yes, I’ve seen the social media posts of suspect school lunches.

Is the program perfect? No, but letting kids down pizza and soda all day, every day, is a recipe for disaster.

If slapping stickers everywhere gets kids to grab the broccoli and an apple, we should get onboard with it. Make it their choice and you have a healthy eater for life.

Now, I know the secret to eating the celery I buy. Put a damn smile on it. Hey Apple, is there an app for that?


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