Why Using Food as a Reward is No Reward

At school, home, and throughout the community, kids are offered food as a reward for “good” behavior. Often these foods have little or not nutritional value but are easy, inexpensive and can bring about short term behavior change.

There are many disadvantages to using food as a reward:

  • It undermines nutrition education being taught in the school environment.
  • It encourages over consumption of foods high in added sugar and fat.
  • It teaches kids to eat when they are not hungry as a reward to themselves.

Kids learn preferences for foods made available to them, including those that are unhealthy. Poor food choices and inadequate physical activity contribute to being overweight and obese. Current obesity among kids is at epidemic levels and can often lead to serious health problems.

Kids naturally enjoy eating healthy and being physically active. Schools and communities need to provide them with an environment that supports healthy behaviors. Below are some zero cost alternatives for students to enjoy instead of being offered food as a reward.

  • Sit by friends
  • Watch a video
  • Read outdoors
  • Teach the class
  • Have extra art time
  • Enjoy class outdoors
  • Have an extra recess
  • Get a “no homework” pass
  • Listen to music while working
  • Eat lunch outdoors with the class
  • Dance to their favorite music in the classroom
  • Get “free choice” time at the end of the day

Create rewards for your students that are truly rewards … not influencers to future behavior.

Now, get moving!

Source: Michigan State University Extension. Adapted from a project funded by Michigan Department of Community Health’s Cardiovascular Health, Nutrition & Physical Activity Section at Lincoln Elementary School in South Haven, Michigan. Lincoln Elementary is a Team Nutrition school.

This entry was posted in For Parents/Families, For Students/Teachers, Nutrition, Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

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