Popeyed Parenting.

by Denis Faye | August 6, 2010

When I was a kid, my diet consisted almost entirely of ham and spinach. Ham because, well, ham is delicious (at least I remember it being delicious – I don’t eat meat anymore) and spinach because of my love for Popeye. That said, my method of intake was slightly different, given A) my Dad is a food snob and would therefore only serve it raw and B) I didn’t have the upper arm strength to squeeze open a can with the kind of force required to make the contents shoot in the air so I could catch it in my mouth.

But I digress. As it turns out, I’m not alone. According to a new study out of Bangkok, watching Popeye cartoons apparently upped veggie intake in kindergartners.

Lead researcher Professor Chutima Sirikulchayanonta said: “We got the children planting vegetable seeds, taking part in fruit and vegetable tasting parties, cooking vegetable soup, and watching Popeye cartoons. We also sent letters to parents with tips on encouraging their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, and teachers sat with children at lunch to role model healthy eating.’

Professor Sirikulchayanonta and her colleagues found vegetable intake doubled and the types of vegetables the children consumed increased from two to four. Parents also reported their children talked about vegetables more often and were proud they had eaten them in their school lunch.

Sadly, while I was enough of a sap as a kid to fall for all the pro-veggie smoke and mirrors, this isn’t the case with my 6-year-old. She loves our garden, but isn’t all that interested in eating what we pull from it. A visit to a local organic farm inspired her to eat a carrot on her own volition once, which was a complete miracle, but such inspiration was short-lived. Then I bought a few of the classic 1940s Popeye cartoons on DVD and while she loves them and watches them repeatedly, she still won’t touch spinach. She has however, picked up on all the racism and sexism in the cartoons, which has has lead to a series of awkward, drawn-out conversations, the strength for which I have only because I’ve upped my spinach uptake.

So, if you look at it that way, the cartoons are still working.


5 thoughts on “Popeyed Parenting.

  1. D Faye

    Mike –

    Actually, I do eat fish now, after 5 years as a strict veggie. It happened for a lot of reasons. At first it was more of an ethical thing. I have no problem with people eating meat, it’s just some of the slaughter practices that bother me. By the time I’d figured out how to get hold of cruelty-free meat, I’d lost the taste for it and I was/am perfectly healthy and happy without, so I don’t see why I need to start again.

    I did resume eating fish largely because of the massive difference it made in my health. I feel bad about overfishing, so I try to keep it to well-managed fisheries, such as wild Alaskan salmon.


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