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Did you ever try to get a small child to eat an apple instead of ice cream for dessert? It's not easy, but it need not be hard. Recent research conducted by the Food and Brand Lab found that by focusing on the situation and not the other food, many people will switch to a healthier snack with little resistance. Maybe that apple won't look so unappealing if you don't mention the ice cream so much.
Rather than trying to convince children that apples are better than ice cream, try not to compare the two. Just reminding them how much they enjoy apples for a snack can effect how they think about apples come dessert time. Crunchy, sweet, satisfying apples can be eaten for a snack or dessert – they can even replace that beloved ice cream.
The research included 195 adults who participated in a 6–week diary–based study, the findings were published in an issue of the Journal of Marketing. Two weeks into the study they were shown ads that encouraged substitution ("eating an apple at breakfast is just as enjoyable as snack time), and ads that suggested reasonable new uses for a product ("How About Using Apple Sauce Instead of Sugar in your Next Recipe?") increased usage frequency of healthy foods. In fact, people consumed 62% more of the product they were shown just after seeing ads that showed healthy foods in unique situations. *
The research has important implications in how we can get people, especially children, to eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.
Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab, said that by simply suggesting that fruits be eaten in different situations we can get people eating more of the healthy stuff. He also suggested making the substitutions without discussion, most people won't really mind or even notice.
By changing some ingredients in common dishes, children could eat much more fruits and vegetables without even knowing it. The same idea holds true for most adults, too.
"This proves that parents can increase the amount of fruit or vegetables in the children's diet just through the power of suggestion," Wansink said.
Wansink, Brian and Michael L. Ray (1996). Advertising Strategies to Increase Usage Frequency. Journal of Marketing, 60(1), 31–46. doi: 10.2307/1251886