School Lunch PsychOut

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 2:54pm

School nutritionists are sneaking veggies into recipes to encourage healthy eating.

If you're a parent, chances are you've had to deal with a picky eater.

It's something schools encounter every day, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is giving millions of dollars to food behavior scientists to figure out how to use psychology to get kids eating better.

Researchers already know some of the tricks: Keeping sweets more out of sight, moving salad bars right next to the register, and at a school in Oakton, Virginia they kept the vegetables completely hidden.

The veggies are inside the entrees.

So what happened when they were told about the hidden health?

They only gasped for a second before taking another bite.

It seems hiding the good stuff can make a great eater out of even the pickiest sixth grader.

"To see them actually licking things clean that had vegetables was amazing," said Principal Chris Gray.

It's all part of a nationwide initiative to help kids make healthier choices.

Cornell University was recently awarded a million dollars to study school lunches.

Researchers found sometimes it can be as easy as placement and presentation.

"Simply taking a fruit bowl and putting it under a light increases sales over 100%," says Cornell researcher Dr. Brian Wansink.

So whether it's highlighting or hiding healthy choices it seems you really can pysch kids into eating well.

It's all part of First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative the "Let's Move" campaign.

Recently Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this type of behavioral study in school lunchrooms could improve the diets of millions of kids across the country.

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