A recent Cornell University study suggests that the Batman and his ilk of superheroes could prompt children to develop healthy eating habits. The study is reminsicent of the Popeye phenomenon; the sailor inspired an entire generation to eat its spinach and greens.
“Fast food patronage is a frequent reality for many children and their parents. Simply instructing a parent to order healthier food for a child is neither empowering for a child nor easy for a parent,” said Brian Wansink, Cornell professor of marketing, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and study co-author. “Advising parents to ask their child, ‘What would Batman eat?’ might be a realistic step to take in what could be a healthier fast-food world,” Wansink stated.
Wansink, along with post-doctoral researcher Mitsuru Shimizu and visiting graduate student Guido Camps of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, conducted a study in which 22 children; ages 6 to 12, at a summer camp offered kids a healthy alternative to fries with their fast food.
About 45 per cent of the children selected apple fries after being shown pictures of superheroes and other role models, compared to the 9 per cent who chose apple fries with no superhero prompts.
“On average, children who selected apple fries consumed only 34 calories whereas children who selected French fries consumed 227 calories. That’s almost seven times as many calories just from the side dish of the meal,” Wansink said.
“If you eat fast food once a week, a small switch from French fries to apple fries could save your children almost three pounds of weight a year,” he added. The findings have been published in the journal Paediatric Obesity.