Anyone who has ever gone on a diet knows that a good portion of the battle is in your mind. You know what you should and shouldn’t choose to eat; but, actually choosing the right foods sometimes requires changing things up in your kitchen, especially if there are other people in your house who are eating the foods that are off limits to you.

 It may mean cutting up fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store and placing them front and center in refrigerator, making them easy to grab quickly. It may mean placing a picture of you’re formerly thinner self on the snack cabinet door.

Kids, if they’ve been taught well by their parents and schools, know what foods are better to choose and which foods should be avoided. Like anyone else, though, it’s hard for them to make the right choices a lot of the time.

In an effort to make it easier for kids to make better choices, the USDA announced earlier this week that it will spend $2 million on the study of psychology in lunch lines. In a nutshell, they are trying to figure out how they can still offer the junk food but get the kids to bypass it on the way to the salad bar.

According to redOrbit, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes that the study could improve the diet of school children. The study will look at measures such as getting rid of the see-through glass lids on ice cream freezers and moving salad bars next to cash registers — two actions that have been found to help kids make better choices. Researchers be finding out what other measures can be taken.

My first reaction to the news was not a good one. I thought that the money could be spent to bring better food into some schools. I thought that the “bad” foods should just be taken away. But after thinking about it longer, it occurred to me that this new concept isn’t such a bad idea.

Just like a dieter has to arrange a kitchen to make it easy to choose the right foods, schools need to arrange their lunchrooms to make it easy for kids to choose healthier foods. The only way to figure out how to do that on such a large scale is to do some research and some testing.

In my house, I know that the best way to get my kids to eat a healthy snack after school is to have it out on the table when they get home. If apples slices, carrots sticks and popcorn are sitting there ready to be gobbled up, they will dive right in along with their friends. But, if they get home and there is nothing on the table, they tend to search for the junkiest food in the house.

I don’t need a $2 million report to tell me how to arrange things in my home to get my boys to eat better, but then again I’m not trying to get millions of children from different backgrounds to eat healthier.

One of the things researchers already know is that kids (like everyone) don’t like to have choices taken away from them. They want to have some control over what they eat. If the result of this study is that schools can help children win the battle in their minds and get them to want to choose healthy food, I think it will be money well spent.

Also on MNN: Our family blogger weighs in

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