Cartoon stickers help kids choose healthy food

An apple with an Elmo sticker more appealing than a cookie, shows study

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Putting a cartoon character’s face on a healthy snack may make it more appealing to children, according to a US study.

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Researchers found that when schoolchildren were offered apples and cookies at lunch, they were more likely to opt for an apple when it was branded with a cartoon sticker, reports Reuters.

Researchers offered cookies and apples to 208 school children between the ages of 8 and 11, every day at lunch for a week. The children could choose an apple, a cookie, or both along with their normal meal.

Some days the snacks were offered without cartoon stickers or branding and other days the cookie or the apple was branded with a familiar cartoon character – such as Sesame Streets Elmo.

When the snacks weren’t branded, 91 % of children took a cookie, and less than one-quarter took an apple.

When an Elmo sticker was put on the apples 37 % of children took the fruit. Stickers on cookies didn’t affect them picking a sweet snack.

“If we are trying to promote healthier foods, we need to be as smart as the companies that are selling the less-healthy foods,” said David Just, co-director of the Cornell Centre for Behavioural Economics in Child Nutrition Program, who worked on the study.

Christina Roberto, who studies food choices at Harvard School of Public Health said: “There are so many foods that are of poor nutritional quality and they are being marketed to children.”

Child-friendly characters “aren’t popping up on carrots and apples as much as they are on a wide range of foods that aren’t good for kids,” she added.

“It’s not a bad idea to create these positive associations, especially if you’re struggling to get kids to eat healthy foods.”

What a great way to make fruit look more appealing! Here at MFM HQ, we think it might be time to get sticker-happy when packing those lunchboxes!

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