Positive reinforcement better when trying to improve diet

29 May 2015

A new study has shown that telling a child about the positive benefits of healthy food is better for improving diet, compared to warning them about the negative side effects of having junk food.

The research, presented at the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior's Annual Conference 2015, found that many public health campaigns won't work because they focus on what you shouldn't eat, rather than telling people the positive aspects of having a healthy diet.

Conducted by Cornell University, the study analysed 43 published international studies that involved either negative or positive nutrition messages. 

Although negative messages worked well with experts, they found that most people would rather be told what they should eat and why it is good for them.

The researchers suggest that public health messaging campaigns focus on the positive consequences of having healthy behaviours, rather than focusing on the negatives of junk food.

This, they say, is more likely to resonate with the general public and control the obesity crisis.

"If you're a parent, it's better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers," said lead author Professor Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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