With the childhood obesity rate tripling in the past 30 years to 1 in 3 children in the United States overweight or obese, books with healthy eating pictures and messages may not be everything, but they’re something, advocates said.
Sesame Workshop, for instance, concluded in a 2010 study that when children are shown fruits and vegetables linked with favorite characters from the show they choose those foods at a much higher rate and eat more of them, according to Sesame researcher Jennifer Kotler.
Even broccoli, she laughed.
“Something happens between 3 and 5 where there’s a growing awareness of what healthy means. Where 3-year-olds like the foods they like, 5-year-olds know things they might choose might not always be the healthiest,” Kotler said.
David Goldbeck in Woodstock, N.Y., isn’t an absolutist, but he does care about what kids see in their books when it comes to food. He wants more of them to eat fruits and vegetables, so he co-wrote an alphabet book that puts broccoli and yams in equally healthy company.
The Michigan Fitness Foundation, which is home to that state’s Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, uses Goldbeck’s “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond” in take-home book bags that are part of a health literacy program in more than 400 public elementary schools, said Marci Kelly Scott, the organization’s vice president for health programs.
The book includes an alphabet format with illustrations (E is for eggplant!) but also history, fun facts and recipes for older kids. Scott ordered 500 of the books in 2008 and routinely reorders to keep up her supplies.
In this alphabet world, C is for carrots, D is for date, as in the “desert fruit found in Kuwait,” and O is for organic.
“I wanted to make these words familiar to kids so they’re not so loaded,” Goldbeck said. “These things have a history to them.” The book skirts on some buzz foods, making H for the herbs on pizza and V for vanilla, which sometimes flavors ice cream cones!