This plate design gets young kids to eat more veggies, study finds

Segmented plates with pictures of recommended foods in each compartment led preschoolers to eat more vegetab...

Posted: Aug 6, 2018 4:38 PM
Updated: Aug 6, 2018 4:38 PM

Segmented plates with pictures of recommended foods in each compartment led preschoolers to eat more vegetables, according to a research letter published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

These lunch trays have shown similar results in elementary school kids, but not in younger children. The researchers say that this could be a tool to nudge children toward healthy habits early in life.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Children

Consumer products

Demographic groups

Diet and nutrition

Diet, nutrition and fitness

Families and children

Family members and relatives

Food and drink

Food products

Fruit

Fruits and vegetables

Health and medical

Kinds of foods and beverages

Nutrition

Population and demographics

Society

Vegetables

"It's a really important time period in children's lives to experience fruits and vegetables," said report author Emily Melnick, a doctoral candidate in health and behavioral sciences at the University of Colorado Denver.

On days when kids used the plates, they served themselves nearly 14 grams more vegetables per day on average -- and ate about 7.5 grams more -- than when using their usual white plates. This means they ate an additional portion the size of a baby carrot or two, Melnick estimated.

However, Roseanne Lesack, a child behavioral psychologist who oversees a feeding disorders clinic at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, noted that "There's no magic bullet, and this [study] is looking for that magic bullet.

"The food culture in America is not the strongest in terms of automatically integrating healthful food," said Lesack, who was not involved in the research. "Parents are really stressed out about what to do."

Children ages 4 to 8 should be eating in the vicinity of 1½ cups of vegetables daily, perhaps more depending on their physical activity, according to the US Department of Agriculture, whose MyPlate provided the basis for the design used in the study.

In the end, 7.5 grams does not an extra serving make, Melnick said -- but it does "signify a willingness to take some more fruits and vegetables," which other research suggests could be associated with a greater preference for the healthy stuff later in life, she pointed out.

Lesack said it's unclear what that threshold might be, but "I'm always a fan of visual supports and visual aids and modeling what appropriate behavior should look like."

Lesack, a mother and a vegetarian, said that exposing kids to healthy foods and deciding "what kind of food culture you create in your home" might be one of the most important things parents do for their children's healthy eating habits.

"In my house, we know that it's not really a meal if there's not a salad," she said.

Melnick's small study observed 235 kids at a preschool in Arvada, Colorado, with an average age of 3.8 years. The key increase in kids eating vegetables happened on just one day in the intervention -- when the menu happened to include cucumbers and carrots but no fruits. (On the other two days, the school served broccoli, Melnick said, but she was unable to determine whether or how these particular vegetables influenced the results.)

The study also found that kids did not eat significantly more fruits with the segmented plate, which the report says could be a "ceiling effect."

"They were already consuming the majority of the fruits made available at lunchtime when we went in initially, but they were only taking about 65% of the vegetables in the bowls. So there was more room for improvement," Melnick said.

This alone was pleasantly surprising to Lesack: that kids so young "were already choosing fruits and vegetables to put on their plate."

An earlier CDC report showed that children weren't eating enough fruits and veggies between 2003 and 2010, and only fruit intake trended upward during that time.

Other research has shown that marketing tactics such as banners or commercials may increase the likelihood of a child choosing to eat vegetables at lunch.

Another study published last week suggested that pressuring picky eaters has "no effect, good or bad, on picky eating or weight in this population," said that study's author, pediatrician Dr. Julie Lumeng, a research professor at the University of Michigan's Center for Human Growth and Development.

Melnick has also worked on more long-term nutrition education programs in schools. However, these yearlong programs are more time-consuming and labor-intensive than the study at hand, she noted.

"It's really interesting to see that something as simple as introducing a plate can potentially have an influence on children's consumption patterns," she said.

For Lesack, it's a question of what policies might follow.

"Where do we put our resources?" she asked. "Are there a million things that could probably get a kid to eat a baby carrot or two? Probably. Is it worth it to spend a million dollars by a school district to buy plates with carrots and watermelons painted on them? Probably not."

Melnick said it wasn't just the kids who used the plates.

"The teachers just loved them in terms of having conversations with kids about foods and food groups ... and what your plate should look like," she said.

"It was a fun educational experience."

West Lafayette
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Kokomo
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Rensselaer
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 48°
Fowler
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 48°
Williamsport
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Frankfort
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Delphi
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 47°
Monticello
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 47°
Logansport
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Scattered Showers & Storms Tonight
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 149166

Reported Deaths: 3960
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24564781
Lake13079350
St. Joseph8788157
Elkhart8371132
Allen7815221
Hamilton5923113
Vanderburgh553050
Tippecanoe350914
Monroe319438
Hendricks3140130
Johnson2972127
Porter293248
Clark282157
Delaware279674
Vigo248837
Madison226991
Cass221020
LaPorte213057
Warrick186563
Kosciusko173121
Floyd172766
Howard157466
Bartholomew138657
Dubois133724
Marshall130626
Henry121828
Boone118648
Grant118039
Wayne117123
Hancock114144
Noble111333
Jackson107412
Morgan91540
Dearborn90328
Daviess83732
Gibson82611
Clinton81316
Shelby78329
Lawrence77832
LaGrange76615
Harrison73324
Knox69610
Putnam69515
DeKalb68611
Posey6745
Steuben5888
Miami5765
Fayette57515
Montgomery56422
White56215
Jasper5464
Greene51237
Scott50613
Decatur49439
Adams4645
Whitley4316
Clay4276
Sullivan42412
Ripley4178
Wells4125
Orange38624
Wabash3859
Starke3847
Huntington3695
Spencer3686
Franklin36325
Jennings35913
Washington3512
Randolph3378
Fulton3292
Jefferson3285
Pike31612
Carroll30813
Perry28914
Jay2816
Fountain2743
Tipton26623
Parke2182
Newton21111
Vermillion2111
Rush2034
Owen1991
Martin1950
Blackford1903
Crawford1481
Pulaski1431
Brown1283
Ohio1187
Benton1070
Union1020
Switzerland840
Warren731
Unassigned0233

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events