Convincing people to take up a healthier diet is a difficult task. A new Cornell discovery suggests that it is better to tell them what to eat than what not to.
Telling your child to eat an apple so they stay healthy will work better than telling them not to eat the cookie because it will make them fat. In short, stressing over the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods.
For the study, researchers analyzed 43 published international studies that involved either negative or positive nutrition messages. They found that while negative messages tended to work best with experts, like dietitians and physicians who were highly involved and knowledgeable in the area, most people who did not know a lot about nutrition would rather be told what they should eat and why it is good for them.
In conclusion, the researchers recommend that when designing public health messaging campaigns, focus on positive consequences of target healthy behaviors rather than focusing on the negative consequences. Like this, the health message is more likely to be effective among the non-expert general public instead of only appealing to health and nutrition professionals.
Lead author Brian Wansink said, "For parents, it's better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers."
The findings appear in Nutrition Reviews