Focus on pros of healthy foods, than cons of junk ones

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Washington | Published: May 28, 2015 5:16:18 PM

In order to make your loved one take up a healthier diet, it's better to tell them what to eat than what not to, says a new study.

In order to make your loved one take up a healthier diet, it’s better to tell them what to eat than what not to, says a new study.

A new Cornell discovery suggests that 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 the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods.

The 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: when designing public health messaging campaigns, focus on positive consequences of target healthy behaviors rather than focusing on the negative consequences. This way, the 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, PhD at Cornell, said that for parents, it’s better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers.

The findings are published in Nutrition Reviews.

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