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The virtual appeal of healthy food

  •  April 6, 2020


The virtual appeal of healthy food

The decision is predictable: In the face of a rich and colorful salad and a hamburger and fries, most children certainly choose the less healthy option. Using a feature of fast food chains, researchers are reversing this trend. And who wins is health.

Salad is like football, there are those who love and those who hate. On this subject, the smaller the child, the greater their opinions. Rather than dictating to young people what they should and should not eat, a University of Iowa study points to a far more convincing path in this struggle for healthy eating for the younger generation. The secret is in the pictures.

The experiment was simple, and the results beyond encouraging. At a local high school canteen, Laura Smarandescu, a marketing professor, and Brian Mennecke, an information systems professor, arranged an image of a salad to be randomly rotated on a digital monitor. The result? Believe it if you can: 90% of the kids used the salad.


The digital menu had more appeal among boys, more famous for preferring fast food than girls. The explanation may lie in the fact that they are more linked to video games and, therefore, respond better to the technological appeals used. Faced with a static menu, the impression is that it does not bring news.

That is, consumer behavior is directly influenced by moving images. Of course the coffee shop chains had known this secret for a long time. It is exciting to know that the same strategy works when used for higher purposes, such as improving the diet of children of growing age when nutrients are critical.

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