Can video games promote healthy eating? Not so, study finds

Parents who are hoping their kids will develop good eating habits by watching video games that promote nutrition may have to find another way to encourage their youngsters to eat more nutritious foods, a new study found.

“Advergames” are linked to well-known food providers, including McDonald’s, Cap’n Crunch cereal made by the Quaker Oats Company and Juicy Juice drinks. By advertising healthy foods during similar games, researchers at the University of Amsterdam had hoped that children’s appetites would be geared toward wholesome snacks after being encouraged during the online activities to eat more fruit.

Researcher Frans Folvord, who authored the study, presented videos to more than 200 elementary school students – some promoting fruit, others focused on candy and toys – and found that the children watching the fruit-related games did not eat more fruit as the research team had hoped. Given a choice between candy and fresh fruit, they chose candy in about the same amount as children who had watched a video promoting candy.

Folvord said the results convinced him that parents should be vigilant about monitoring the effect of online games, including those that purport to encourage healthy eating. The study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Children are not aware of the intentions of the marketers,” Folvord, a graduate student at the university, told Reuters Health. “Parents have to teach their children to be skeptical about those games.”

If children are reluctant to eat fruit, parents can give them multivitamins and supplements that provide similar nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

CalMax Kids from Dr. Newton’s Naturals is a nutritious beverage powder formulated for kids. It includes 22 percent of the USDA recommended daily value of calcium as well as magnesium and vitamin C. CalMax Kids, which is safe for children ages 2 and older, has a 3:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium and contains no artificial colors, sweeteners or chemicals.