Should You Use Rewards To Encourage Healthy Eating?

If you’re hoping science can answer the question of whether or not rewards are an effective way to encourage healthy eating, you’re going to be disappointed. The research is pretty conflicted, with ample evidence suggesting that it can have a clear positive effect in the short term, while other evidence suggests these positive effects are unlikely to be maintained in the long term. If you’re going the rewards route, there is broad agreement on one thing: Don’t reward your kid with other kinds of foods (like candy), since it creates unhealthy associations with unhealthy food. If your goal is a more holistic approach that aims to instill in your kid an overall philosophy of eating (like dietician Ellyn Satter’s Division Of Responsibility model), then rewards are a frowned upon short cut. And if you’ve tried everything to no avail, just put maple syrup on it. That seems to work with most kids.


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