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‘Smiley face’ labels on healthy foods could charm students to eat better

FOOPut a smiley face tag on healthy foods and the students might just start eating better, says a new study.

The new research claims that labeling healthy foods with smiley faces and offering small prizes for buying nutritious items may be a low-cost way to get students to make healthy choices in the school lunch line.

Making poor food choices in school cafeterias is a risk factor for childhood obesity. Therefore, efforts have focused on improving the quality of school lunches and enticing children to eat them.

In the first phase of experiment, green smiley face emoticons were placed at the most nutritious foods in the school cafeteria, including fruits, vegetables, plain white fat-free milk and an entree with whole grains. Three months later, researchers introduced the concept of a “Power Plate,” which consisted of the four healthy foods. Children who selected a Power Plate could receive a small prize, such as a sticker, temporary tattoo or mini beach ball.

Results showed plain milk purchases increased from 7.4 percent to 48 percent of total milk sales-a 549 percent increase. Meanwhile, chocolate milk selection decreased from 86.5 percent to 44.6 percent of total milk sales. The total amount of milk purchased remained constant from baseline to the end of the study.

In addition, fruit selection increased by 20 percent from 1 to 1.2 items per student per day, and vegetable selection rose by 62 percent from 0.74 to 1.2 items per student per day. Power Plate selection increased 335 percent from baseline.

Study author Robert Siegel, MD, FAAP, medical director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center said that the results were very promising, and such type of program may be a useful component in schools trying to improve the nutrition and health of their students.

The study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego. (ANI)