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Superheroes Can Also Make Children Eat Healthy Food

Update Date: Aug 22, 2012 08:15 AM EDT

It's common knowledge that young children blindly follow their favorite superheroes. whether it's mimicking their signature moves to buying candy with a picture of their idol on it, children can be easily manipulated into doing anything, as long as their favorite characters are involved in it. So why not use this phenomenon for a good cause?

Research suggests that children can be made to eat healthy by using the same tactics that is used to sell junk food. This may help in promoting better nutrition.  

Superheroes and other popular kids' characters are currently used as a tactic to sell junk food, candy and other sugary treats to children, but new research suggests their usage for the promotion of healthy eating habits can be just as succesful. 

"Nutritionists and school-lunch planners can turn the tables on children's poor eating habits by adopting the same 'branding' tactic used by junk-food marketers," study lead author Brian Wansink, professor of marketing at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said in a university news release. 

For the study, the researchers gave the children, a choice between cookies and apples. While some of the children were offered plain apples and cookies, others were told to select either cookies or Elmo apples, with the stickers of the popular Sesame Street character on them. 

It was found that more children opted for Elmo apples over the cookies.

"Branding has tremendous potential to promote healthier eating," Wansink said. "We tend to associate mascots and characters with junk food, but they can also be used to build excitement around healthy foods. This is a powerful lesson for fast food companies, food activists and people involved in school food service."

 The study was published recently in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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