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Can Children Be Manipulated into Eating Their Veggies?

How come French children don't need to be experimented upon by psychologists to get them to eat well?

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

February 20, 2012 - 12:00 am
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Whether the results were encouraging, discouraging, or neither depends upon your point of view. The proportion of children who chose green beans rose from 6.3 to 14.8 percent; the figures for carrots were 11.6 and 36.8 percent. The actual consumption rose accordingly: but whether the effect would be a lasting one was not a question that the research so far done could answer. There is always room for more research, and sometimes the cynical thought comes into one’s mind that the main purpose of research is to quote precisely that room.

I found the research mildly disconcerting. Moreover, the heart of the problem — the poor diet of many American children — is for me symbolized in the researcher’s use of the word “student” for children of kindergarten age and for those only a year or two older. Kindergarten children and pupils are not students: they grow into studenthood with age, as their studies become more self-chosen and self-directed. At first, they need a lot of direction.

What applies to study applies to food: for if children are given the choice too early of what to eat, they will forever eat what is childish. French children are not given the choice, and therefore quickly develop a more mature taste, and are less fat. They do not need to be experimented upon by psychologists and others to get them to eat well.

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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