I like fish. Consequently, it always surprises me when people tell me they don't like fish. I wonder if my positive association with fish dates back to my childhood. My parents have always liked fish and they would often buy a prepared whole fish for dinner. My brother and I both distinctly recall them telling us that eating fish would make us smarter. Of course, now my parents innocently deny that they ever made such an assertion.
Can a simple statement such as, "Fish makes you smarter," rub off on a child's eating habits? Brian Wansink studied how to help children develop positive associations with food. In the Popeye project, children whose parents told them that spinach gave them strength, carrots made them see far, and fish made them smart, developed positive associations with these foods.
Most kids I know idolize superheroes like Spiderman and Ironman. I know Colin certainly does. Just like Popeye gave kids the idea that spinach makes them stronger, you can tell your kids about the physical benefits of eating real food. Living organisms like plants have developed natural protective mechanisms called antioxidants. Although we still don't know what kinds of powers we can get from eating foods high in antioxidants, the very same foods are often full of essential vitamins and minerals.
In the following video, Iron Chef Man uses his cooking powers to make squid ink pasta, a good source of antioxidants and a very tasty dish:
You could do a lot worse than telling your kids that eating natural whole foods gives them special powers. In the end, this kind of tactic can help them develop a healthful eating habit that will do them a lot of good for many years to come.
Wansink, Brian. 2006. Mindless eating: why we eat more than we think. New York: Bantam Books.