It's all about appearances.

By Real Simple
Updated June 24, 2015
girl refusing to eat vegetables
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you struggle to get your child to eat fruit and vegetables instead of cookies and cake, researchers may have a new strategy for you. Scientists at University of Bonn in Germany found that food packaging seems to help encourage young children to choose healthy foods.

The research, published in Frontiers in Psychology, looked at 179 boys and girls in elementary school. They offered three identical yogurt snacks with different package designs. The children were asked to sample all three, not knowing it was the same snack each time. The first package was plain, the second focused on health information, and the third had cartoon characters on the outside. By studying grip strength as well as taste preferences, the researchers determined which snack children wanted the most (by looking at the effort exerted to obtain it) and which they enjoyed the most. The yogurt snack with a cartoon packaging scored highest in both categories.

This research has implications for school lunches, as well as companies looking to market healthier products to children. "Attractively designed food packaging can tempt children to pick unhealthy foods," researcher Dr. Mathilde Kersting said in a statement. "However, marketing effects of this type can also be used to promote healthy food products to children." But it's interesting news for parents, too—maybe a few fun stickers on the outside of plastic sandwich bags and food containers will entice kids to eat their broccoli.