Study: Prizes convince kids to choose a healthier school lunch

McDonalds knows including toys with their food works to sell Happy Meals, so why not steal their idea to convince your kid to choose healthy food over junk?

Doctors at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center did a little experiment: What if you offer kids a small prize for choosing a healthier meal?

A group of inner city elementary school students were asked to choose between two lunches, one of which had at least four components recommended by the USDA: entree, fruit, vegetable and low-fat milk.

Normally, fewer than 10 percent of the students between first and sixth grade chose the healthier “Power Plate” — but when the researchers began offering daily prizes like pencils, erasers and stickers for kids who chose it, the number shot up to 52.8 percent.

Since the federal government’s school lunch guidelines became more strict, many students have rejected the healthier lunches schools must serve to receive extra funding. Unfortunately, the study didn’t look at what happened to the food after the kids took it, so it’s unclear if prizes actually convince the kids to eat the healthy option. The study was two months long, so we also don’t know if it’s a long-term solution.

The results convinced three elementary schools in the Cincinnati Public School district to start offering prizes, and school officials are considering extending it to another 11 schools.