Children can be very picky eaters and many don't like to eat vegetables that help ensure healthy growth and prevent a range of illnesses and diseases.

Findings of a new study, however, have revealed that the answer to kids not eating vegetables is as simple as creating better marketing for healthy food.

In a research published in the journal Pediatrics on July 5, Andrew Hanks, from The Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues found that banners and TV segments that promote healthy eating can increase chances of elementary school students to opt for veggies for lunch.

Over a period of six weeks, Hanks and colleagues conducted an experiment involving children from 10 schools to see how marketing interventions can influence their likelihood to eat vegetables.

They randomly assigned groups of elementary school children to see vinyl banners featuring vegetable cartoon characters on the school's cafeteria salad bar, see short TV segments near salad bar that also feature vegetable characters talking about nutrition, or see both the TV segments and banners. Students who were not exposed to any marketing intervention were assigned to the control group.

The researchers found that just as clever marketing through TV ads can get kids to consume more junk food, a similar strategy appears to work to steer them into eating vegetables.

Only 12 percent of children who were exposed to banners that feature vegetable cartoon characters took vegetables for their meals prior to marketing intervention, but this jumped to 24 percent when they were exposed to the banners.

From 10.2 percent, 34.6 percent of those who were exposed to both banners and TV segments took vegetables after the intervention.

No significant change, however, was noted in students who were exposed to TV segments and those who were part of the control group.

"Results show that 90.5 percent more students took vegetables from the salad bar when exposed to the vinyl banner only, and 239.2 percent more students visited the salad bar when exposed to both the television segments and vinyl banners," the researchers reported in their study.

The researchers said that their findings provide evidence of the positive impact of branded media on vegetable selection in school cafeterias. The study also suggests opportunities for using marketing strategies to steer kids into making healthier food choices.

"This really shows that if you raise awareness and bring attention to the healthier foods that kids will actually take them," said Jennifer Harris, from University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who was not part of the study. "Characters made the food seem novel and appealing."

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