It Takes More Than Cartoons to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

A new study from the Journal of Advertising Research examined the effects of visual communication on children’s healthy food choices.  Naturally, cartoons were the preferred medium for children who participated, but that didn’t translate into eating their vegetables, report Maria Lagomarsino of Université de Neuchâtel and L. Suzanne Suggs of Università della Svizzera italiana and Imperial College London. Among their findings:

 

  • While children prefer cartoon images of healthy food items, compared with other visualizations, this does not translate into their consumption intentions.

 

  • If the aim is to increase the consumption of the food item, it may be more effective to use photos of healthy foods rather than cartoons or other animations. Most children stated that the photos of foods appeared more real and tastier, illustrating that they were able to differentiate real from fantasy, and when it came to choosing what to eat, they wanted the “real” thing.

 

  • For healthy food to attract children, it needs to be recognized as child-targeted. It could be, therefore, that in a supermarket, healthy food without packaging could attract children, but they would need to identify these products as relevant to them.

 

  • Images of children eating healthy foods are not sufficiently motivating to other children. It might be more effective to use interactive or animated peer-modeling techniques, which are options for television advertising or media where the behavior is shown, for example.

 

  • The use of a mix of visualizations techniques may maximize the attention to and adoption of healthy food marketed to children.

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