Washington: Invoking names of superheroes such as Batman in front of children can persuade children to develop their own healthy eating habits, a study has found.
Just as Popeye inspired a generation to eat spinach, such role models as Spiderman or Batman could help children make healthy choices, said Brian Wansink Cornell professor of marketing, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
"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 Wansink, who is also the 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 added.
The study involved 22 children, aged 6 to 12 at a summer camp and the kids were asked if they wanted apple fries or French fries during several consecutive Wednesday lunches.
During one of those lunches, the children were first presented with 12 photos of real and fictional role models and asked, "Would this person order apple fries or French fries?"
As many as 45 percent 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 Pediatric Obesity.