A new US study has found that playing ‘serious’ video games can help encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture / Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital used a serious video game, “Squires Quest! II: Saving the Kingdom of Fivealot,” an online video game that encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, to see if the goal-setting and plan-making aspects of the game could help 4th and 5th grade children increase their fruit and veg intake.
The team recruited 400 children for the study, who all played 10 episodes of the game.
While playing the game some children had to create an ‘action implementation intention’ to eat fruit and vegetables at certain meals.
Other children were asked to create a coping implementation intention, others were asked to create both, and the rest created no intention.
Every child was asked to record whether they had met their goals during the next episode in the game.
Fruit and vegetable consumption was also recorded at the beginning of the study and six months later, with researchers tracking how much fruit and vegetables children ate at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for snacks.
Parents were also involved in the study, and received emails with a newsletter, a link to a parent website, and information on their child’s weekly goals and how they could support them reach their fruit and vegetable consumption targets.
At the end of the study the results showed that from the 400 children, 79% reported meeting all of their goals during the game.
Researchers believe that high number of children reaching their goals, and the increase in fruit and vegetable intake, is in part thanks to the serious content of the game, as serious video games are not only designed to entertain but also to promote a change in behavior.
In addition, involving parents by providing them with information and newsletters on their child’s progress and ways to help could have also helped to support children in upping their intake of fruit and vegetables.
However although the results are promising, the team believe more work needs to be done to ensure children are meeting the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetable. The researchers now believe that to follow up on their study results should be replicated elsewhere, with future studies also including interviews to understand the results better.
The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior.