Elmo Sells Healthier Food Choices to Children

A: Apple (Elmo Sketches)Getting children to pick healthier foods over less healthy foods is no easy task as most parents know. However, researchers in a new Cornell University study discovered that targeted branding can positively influence kids to choose healthier foods.

For the study, the researchers offered 208 children an apple and/or a cookie after lunch. Neither the apple nor the cookie were branded. All of the children participating in the study were between the ages of eight and eleven and attended New York schools.

Although more children selected the cookie overall, when the apple featured a sticker of a familiar character such as Elmo, the children were more likely to choose the apple over the unbranded cookie. When both foods featured a sticker and when both foods were unbranded, more children selected the cookie. However, using an Elmo sticker caused the children to double their apple choice.

As the researchers conclude:

“This study suggests that the use of branding or appealing branded characters may benefit healthier foods more than indulgent, more highly processed foods.”

Parents with children may not be surprised by the results of the study. As the researchers also pointed out:

“Just as attractive names have been shown to increase the selection of healthier foods in school lunchrooms, brands and cartoon characters can do the same with preliterate children.”

In other words, just as popular characters help sell unhealthy food choices like cookies, high-sugar fruit snacks, and chips, similar branding can help promote healthier food choices like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

As David Just — co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs in Ithaca, New York — told Reuters Health:

“If we’re trying to promote healthier foods, we need to be as smart as the companies that are selling the less-healthy foods. The message should be: fight fire with fire.”

Do you think that Elmo can help children make healthier food choices?


Cartoon stickers may sway kids’ food choices:
Elmo may help kids choose fruits and veggies over junk food:
Elmo stickers on food help kids make healthy choices:

Image Credits

A: Apple (Elmo Sketches):

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