Superman’s Magic (Sugar-Sprayed) Carrots

My friend, Jayne, rightly called me out, sending an email demanding that I write a blog post (which I believe she called “nice little blurbs”) for every single class meeting that I have. While this is not something (clearly!–finding time to make my bed is proving challenging this semester!) that I am able to do, I took her email as saying, “Sarah, you don’t have to make your bed today — write a little bit,”  which is much more fun. So let’s see what pours out of my fingers…!

So here we are. Starting a blog post without a topic in mind but encouraged to write something about school. Hmm. My classes this semester are stats, econ, nutrition in the lifecycle, and communication strategies for health promotion. While I could craft some regression equations, draw some supply/demand curves, or write quite a well-sized blurb about the benefits of breastfeeding (and post some pictures of new breastfeeding contraptions), I think what you would all find most interesting is a quick explanation of a project that we’re doing this semester for the communication strategies class.

My biggest project this semester is to develop a communications campaign encouraging kids, ages 5-12, to pick healthier foods when they’re eating out at fast food or casual dining (think applebees) restaurants. My group has been reading through some research that explains how kids want superpowers, and that convincing them that vegetables will give them superpowers (think “X-Ray Vision Carrots”) will encourage vegetable consumption. We’re also thinking of copying some other research that was done by encouraging kids to order their food as if they were a superhero. There was a study done showing that kids associate healthier foods with their heroes — they believe that superman would eat salad over ice cream. It makes sense, right? Grownups eat healthy food because they know it is better for them. If we highlight why (without outright lying to the kids) the kids should eat the healthier foods, they’re likely to. Kids want superpowers. Or badassery. Remember that “extreme  baby carrots” marketing campaign?

The organization we’re working for has ties to the restaurant industry and many confirmations that if kids demand a different kind of food, restaurants will work harder to meet those new demands. And it really is happening — McDonalds, etc, is transitioning to “healthy defaults,” or including milk and apple slices in happy meals unless soda and french fries are requested.

Later on this semester we’ll be conducting a focus group with some kids (anyone have ties to any groups of 5-12 year olds in boston we can use?!) and incorporate their ideas on restaurant eating and their understanding of healthy foods into our proposal.

We read about another study that shows that kids are more likely to eat more vegetables if they are sprayed with sugar water. No shit. I find it irritating that adding sugar to vegetables is a real solution that people are considering to increase vegetable consumption. Yes, the kids are getting the nutrients, but still. C’mon — there’s gotta be a better solution than sugar water.

All right, hopefully this little blurb pleases Jayne. I have to get my day underway! Be good, everyone.

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2 Comments to “Superman’s Magic (Sugar-Sprayed) Carrots”

  1. Great post!! Always very entertaining. First of all, I can totally relate to this post for various reasons. #1 – I have a 10 1/2 year old son who is pretty picky. He’s projected to be 6’5″ so he’s eating me out of house and home. # 2 – I worked for 12 years with a fast food chain in their corporate office (think roast beef sandwiches). #3 – I currently work for a great sandwich shop that started in Delaware, but not corporate is in Las Vegas. #4 – Kids eating vegetables are one of the toughest challenges (in my opinion).

    As a mother, I wish I would have started vegetables at a much younger age. My son will eat salad – lettuce, tomato, cucumbers. He’ll eat corn, green beans and once in awhile carrots. Nothing else. He doesn’t care for the texture especially stuff like broccoli, cauliflower, etc. . . I tried to give him veggies without sauces. He’ll eat some raw, but he likes to dip. I can’t blame him because so do I. We just try to limit the dipping cup.

    Working in the fast food industry for so long they can only do so much. Without getting on any kind of soap box I believe it’s a person’s choice. At my current job, we offer a kids meal with Ocean Spray Craisins and Apple Juice. I don’t have the exact data, but when I’ve observed people I would say the majority ask for substitutes like a bag of chips and small drink aka soda. I guess if we go out to eat getting that stuff is considered a treat. We try not to have it in our home on a regular basis so when we do go out it’s special. Does that make sense?

    Again, I agree we need to do more to help childhood obesity, but I also believe it’s a person’s responsibility as well. Even now when I go to a restaurant that posts nutritionals it does make me second guess my choice, BUT ultimately it is my choice to choose the grilled chicken versus a burger.

    I’m all for tricking my son too. A friend shared a great brownie recipe. Basically, it’s the dry brownie mix and pureed black beans. You can’t tell the difference and it’s a huge calorie savings. You can also use pumpkin, unsweetened applesauce, etc. . . It just takes a little creativity.

    Good luck this semester. You’re going to do great!!!

    Susan

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