MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It turns out a “Happy Meal” for the kids may be a pretty good option.
According to new research from The American Academy of Pediatrics, you just have to make sure there’s a smiley face or a little prize involved.READ MORE: PHOTO: U Of M Alerts Students To Person Taking Pictures In Showers
The study looked at school-aged children in the cafeteria. It found a smiley faced emoji by healthy options actually increased the likelihood of students choosing vegetables or plain, fat-free milk.
In that same study, if there was small prize for making a healthy lunch, children also chose to eat a well-balanced meal.
But How Do I Ensure Kids Eat Healthy — Without Emojis?
First, there’s good news: Minnesota’s obesity levels among children ages 10 to 17 have remained fairly steady across the state.
In the most recent data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, there was only a 3 percent increase from 2007 to 2011.
What these numbers don’t show is that more than 20 percent of children across the state are considered overweight. That means having a BMI at or above the 85th percentile.
While family history can play an important role in a child’s overall health, doctors have been pushing fruits and vegetables for decades.READ MORE: Protesters Demonstrate Against 'Unethically High' Drug Prices Outside UnitedHealthcare Corporate Offices
“They’re important for our immune system. They are naturally low in calorie and fat, and fill you up,” Dr. Betsy Schwartz, a pediatrician at Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park, said.
For years, she has dedicated her time to a summer camp called Camp 5210, which is designed to get kids on a healthy eating track.
The week-long camp for children acts as a foundation for not only making better food choices, but living a more active lifestyle.
“They’re active the whole time,” Schwartz said. “They’re doing camp activities. They’re canoeing, swimming and rock climbing.”
Being active means cutting TV and tablet time. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under the age of 2 should not be spending anytime on screen devices.
“Kids are less active, they snack more. It leads to weight gain and it leads to attention problems in school,” Schwartz said.
Screen time isn’t considered play time. For that, a minimum one hour of gym time or vigorous activity is recommended.
And after, if the kids are thirsty, water or low-fat milk are good options.MORE NEWS: Bemidji Police Asking For Public's Help Locating Missing Teeen, Sian-Rose Tappo
“It’s the sweetened beverages that are particularly bad, because the sugar is absorbed so quickly,” Schwartz said.