Bite Vs Chew: Rowdy Kids Calm Down At Mealtime When Given Utensils
April 24, 2014

Eating Utensils Make For Calmer Mealtimes

[ Watch the Video: Cutting Up Food Can Make Kids Less Rowdy ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A new study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab has found that the way young kids eat their food impacts how rowdy they are at mealtime.

Published in the journal Eating Behaviors, the new study shows that when children between the ages on 6 and 10 ate foods they had to bite using their front teeth - like drumsticks, or whole apples - they were more rambunctious than when these foods ended up being cut so they could be eaten with utensils.

"They were twice as likely to disobey adults and twice as aggressive toward other kids," study author Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said in a recent statement.

On the first day of study, half the children sat at one picnic table and received chicken on the bone that required being bitten off with the front teeth – the other half sat at another table and were provided with chicken pre-cut into bite-sized pieces. On the next day, the groups received the opposite form of food. On both days, two camp counselors told the children to remain within a circle with a 9-foot radius.

Both meals were videotaped and assessed by trained researchers who noted how aggressive or agreeable the children were and if they showed any rowdy behaviors, such as jumping around and climbing on the picnic tables.

Both the camp counselors and researchers observations revealed that when kids were provided chicken on the bone, they acted two times as active, and were twice as likely to defy adults, than when they had been offered bite-sized bits of chicken. Additionally, the children who have been given chicken on the bone left the circle without approval more often and were more likely to leap up and get up on the picnic tables.

The study team concluded that parents and teachers who offer kids food to bite with their front teeth should expect the kids to get rowdy.

"If you want a nice quiet, relaxing meal with your kids, cut up their food," Wansink said. With respect to school lunchroom staff, Wansink said, "If drumsticks, apples, or corn on the cob are on the menu, duck!"

Last week, the Cornell Food Lab came out with another study that found banning chocolate milk from a school lunchroom increases food waste and reduces nutritional intake.

The researchers came to their conclusions after looking at school lunch programs in 17 Oregon elementary schools – including 11 where chocolate milk had been removed from the cafeterias and substituted with skim milk. While the kids did have a lower intake of added sugars due to the switch, they were also found to be consuming less calcium and protein. In addition to seeing lower milk sales and higher milk waste, the study team also found a 7 percent drop in school lunch participation.

“There are other ways to encourage kids to select white milk without banning the chocolate,” Wansink suggested. “Make white milk appear more convenient and more normal to select. Two quick and easy solutions are: Put the white milk in the front of the cooler and make sure that at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all the milk is white.”