Ask Yourself… What Would Batman Eat? The Psychology Of Children’s Eating

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We all know how amazing superheroes can be, especially in the eyes of children, they go around rescuing people and saving lives as a matter of course. Unfortunately the powers of a superhero can only go so far, yes they may be there to pull you from a burning car, or to rescue you as you fall from a 50 story building…but they can do nothing for you being attacked by those silent killers, sugar, fat and calories…or can they?

A study conducted at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has found that children may be primed into healthy eating by following the example of superheroes. It makes sense when you think about it, children love nothing more than getting their Batman, Spiderman or Superman outfit on ready to rampage the house, so why not prep their meals in a way that imitates (supposedly) the superheroes diet plan? This may seem a far-fetched and optimistic way to encourage better eating in children, but researchers have good evidence to suggest that children may make better food choices by simply thinking about what their favourite superhero would eat/ drink.

 

Ask the question…

One of the first steps to changing/ nurturing a child’s mind-set to better eating is asking them what THEY think their favourite superhero would eat or drink. If you can sew the seed that their superhero has always had a liking for carrots to help them see, and chicken to encourage their muscles to grow big and strong then you’re on the right path. An interesting experiment by Dr Wansink and Dr Shimizu from the University of Utrecht devised a clever tactic to try to encourage kids to opt for apple slices rather than French fries. In a group of 22 children, the 6-12 year olds were given the option of sliced apple or French fries from a fast food outlet, unsurprisingly the vast majority opted for the French fries with just 9.1% ordering the apple.

 

Embedding the healthy mind-set

In order to embed the positive and healthy association between superheroes and eating, the researchers decided to ask the children what they thought their favourite superheroes would choose to eat, with many of them suggesting fruit and veg because of the ‘healthy’ associations. This was a very interesting discovery! This proved that when given positive encouragement and prompting the children can make the ‘healthier’ food choice. The week after quizzing the children on the superheroes food choices, it was apparent that their food choices had changed with 45.5% of children selecting apple slices compared to just 9% in the previous group.

 

How this translates into health and well being

The outcome of this is that children who can be encouraged to opt for apple slices as a side to their meal will ultimately consume approx. 7x less calories than those that opt for fries! If you and your children consume fast food once a week, then this simple swap could result in a loss of 3lbs over the course of a year…and that’s just by making that 1 swap!

Source

Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, (2012). What Would Batman Eat? Priming Children to Make Healthier Fast Food Choices. Retrieved 26th February, 2015, from http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/outreach/batman.html

 

Wansink, B., Shimizu, M., & Camps, G. (2012). What would Batman eat? Priming children to make healthier fast food choices. Pediatric Obesity, 7(2), 121-123

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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