Encouraging Healthy Eating in Hospitalized Children

Full Text (from J Peds twitter feed): All Aboard Meal Train: Can Child-Friendly Menu Labeling Promote Healthier Choices in Hospitals?  S Basak et al. J Pediatr 2019; 204: 59-65

Conclusion: “The combination of menu labeling techniques targeted to children in the inpatient hospital setting was an effective short-term tool for increasing the intake of healthier foods, although the effect of labeling waned over time.”

From the discussion: “Our findings in this study show a significantly higher odds of ordering green-light healthier option foods and lower odds of ordering red-light foods when exposed to child-friendly menu labeling. This effect waned over time, such that after 8 meals, proportions of red-light and green-light choices were similar with both menus…

Although most children’s hospital food environments include food items that have low nutritional value, this study highlights that nutrition education using menu labeling can be successfully implemented and can encourage children and their families to make healthier choices. It is our hope that labeling may also encourage hospital food providers to improve food quality at the hospital by decreasing red-light foods and increasing healthy food options at every meal. More research is needed to determine optimal techniques for various age ranges and develop menus that are age-appropriate and tailored for specific patient populations.”

My take: 1. This study from Sick Children’s is important.  We can determine more effective healthy eating strategies on a ‘captive’ audience.  2. I remember several years ago when one of my partners ruffled some feathers by asking the hospital to reconsider promoting sugar-sweetened beverages while at the same time posting billboards of obese children.

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