If your child is an unhealthy eater – the key to getting him or her to eat more fruits and veggies may lie in a little bit of strategic marketing.
According to a study that was recently published in the journal Pediatrics, advertising methods such as television commercials and banners can triple the chances of a child choosing healthier options during lunchtime.
The study, which took place in New York, experimented with 3 different advertising approaches in public elementary schools over the course of six weeks. A control group was first established (this group was not exposed to any marketing tactics). The first approach utilized vinyl banners, displaying animated characters in the form of vegetables with super powers. Brian Broccoli, one of the characters, is shown flexing his arms, while Colby Carrot shoots laser beams out of his eyes.
The second marketing approach involved quick video segments narrated by the characters regarding health-related topics, and the third combined both the video and the banners.
Results concluded that, when exposed to the banners alone, almost 100% more students chose vegetables from the salad bar during lunchtime. Before seeing the banners, 12% of students put veggies on their plates; after seeing the banners this number jumped up to 24%.
The third approach proved to be the most successful – by combining both the banners and the videos, there was a 239% increase in students who visited the salad bar. (The number of students who took vegetables jumped from 10% to 34%)!
Surprisingly, the video clips did not affect students’ choices. Andrew Hanks, an assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author, believes the banners were most successful as they were front-and-center at the salad bar and served as an easy reminder for students to make wise choices.
A similar and separate study conducted by Canadian researchers analyzed 26 previous studies regarding the link between advertising and children’s food intake. The study concluded that children who were exposed to marketing of unhealthy foods consumed more; they ate about 30 calories more of junk food than children who were not exposed.
Children under the age of 8 are very impressionable when it comes to marketing, and advertisements for low-nutrition, sugar-filled foods and beverages are essentially putting them in danger for obesity and diseases later in life. While it’s suggested that parents lead by example through eating and cooking healthy foods with their children, researchers would love to see what would happen if marketing focused on healthy foods instead of low-quality treats.