By Donna Gerakos, MSEd, AT, CSCS, LMT
Assistant Professor, College of Science, Engineering and Technology
Would you eat more fruits and vegetables if you were paid to do so?
In a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2,292 elementary school students in Utah were rewarded through praise or prizes based on eating fruits and vegetables (Morrill et al., 2015).
I was intrigued, as I live the constant struggle of trying to get my nine-year-old son to eat anything that has any resemblance of a whole food.
I set out to do my own home-based “science” experiment. The methodology was not well thought out, but I laid a banana down in front of a boy who has refused to eat bananas since he learned the word “no.” I told him I would pay him $2 to eat the banana.
He refused, but after approximately 24 hours, he returned to see if the deal was still negotiable as he needed $2 for a video game purchase. He ate the banana. He didn’t gag. He didn’t act like he was going to die. He ate it AND he liked it.
The Morrill et al. (2015) study also found an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables during the study, especially in those that received a tangible prizes.
Unfortunately, after a six-month follow-up, the researchers did not see the students maintaining this higher consumption. I can report that my “home-based” study is still experiencing a significant increase in banana consumption and now I seek ways to continue expanding his healthy food choices. I am in a constant struggle to identify ways to make healthy food choices an intrinsic desire for my family.
Early in my career and before I was a mother, I taught a college nutrition course. I recall when I taught about the nutrition of children, I spoke about how food should not be a struggle between the parent and child. I also shared that kids will eat what they are given and what they see their parents eating.
I still believe this; however, it is not as easy as I thought it would be.
How can we encourage healthy choices for our families and ourselves for our lifetime?
Grand Canyon University offers STEM degree programs from the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, including biology degrees that prepare students to seek entrance into medical schools. For more information, contact an enrollment counselor.
- Morrill, B., Madden, G., Wengreen, H., Fargo, J., & Aguilar, S. (2015). A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Food Dudes Program: Tangible Rewards Are More Effective Than Social Rewards for Increasing Short-and Long-Term Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.07.001
More about Donna:
Donna Gerakos holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health science and athletic care (1995) from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master of Science in education (1998) from Canisius College. She is state licensed and nationally certified as an athletic trainer and massage therapist and a nationally certified strength and conditioning specialist. Donna has been an assistant professor and clinical coordinator in the athletic training education program (ATPE) at Grand Canyon University since 2007. She has practiced in various areas of education, including secondary and adult education. Prior to moving to Arizona, she held an assistant professor and assistant athletic trainer position at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and also worked for several years in an orthopedic outpatient rehabilitation clinic at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Donna lives in Goodyear, AZ with her family and enjoys competing in triathlons.