Smiley faces are a hit among kids and its use in food labels along with compliments for buying nutritious items can make kids purchase and eat more of healthy foods, suggests a new research.
"It looks like we found a very promising, low-cost and effective way of improving the nutrition of elementary school children. This type of programme may be a useful component in schools trying to improve the nutrition and health of their students," said study author Robert Siegel from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, Ohio, US.
For the study, the researchers designed a two-phase intervention to improve healthful eating among kindergarten through sixth-grade students at an inner-city school in Cincinnati. The first phase consisted of placing green smiley face emotions by 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% to 48% of total milk sales. Fruit selection increased by 20% from 1 to 1.2 items per student per day, and vegetable selection rose by 62% from 0.74 to 1.2 items per student per day. Meanwhile, chocolate milk selection decreased from 86.5% to 44.6% of total milk sales.