Even Healthy Food Games Stimulate Unhealthy Eating

Even healthy food game apps your children download may be do more harm than good. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition asked children aged 8 to 10 to play an online food game featuring a popular brand of candy, to play an online food game that featured fruit, or to play nothing at all. After playing, the children were offered jelly candy, chocolate, sliced bananas, and apples.

The researchers assumed the children who played the fruit game would choose the fruit, but their assumption was wrong. All the kids who played the games ate more than kids who did not play, and they ate more candy. It didn’t matter what game they played. If they played online food games, they ate more candy. Why? One guess by researchers: food games, also called food advergames, may involve a child so deeply he doesn’t realize it’s really advertising.

The observation that food games, even for healthy foods, can lead to eating more junk food is worth noting. A new FTC report found that food companies are compensating for limits on advertising to children by ramping up their spending for interactive games and media.

Jennifer Harris, directer of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, advises parents. “Pay attention to what your kids are downloading. A lot of parents figure as long as it’s free and it’s listed for children, it’s safe and not harmful. You can’t really assume that.”

Click here to read the NPR story and here to read the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study