Serious Video Games May Help Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Creating implementation intentions within the goal-setting process in Squires Quest! II increased vegetable consumption at dinner and fruit consumption at breakfast, lunch, and snacks among fourth and fifth graders, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, May 9, 2016

Few US children meet daily recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, making fruit and vegetable consumption an important issue for researchers. Eating adequate amounts of these foods is not only ideal for a healthy lifestyle, but has also been shown to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Using a serious video game, Squires Quest! II: Saving the Kingdom of Fivealot, researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture / Agricultural Research Service Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital evaluated how creating implementation intentions (i.e., specific plans) within the goal-setting component in the game helped fourth and fifth grade students improve fruit and vegetable intake at specific meals.

For the study, 400 children played 10 episodes of Squires Quest! II, an online video game that promotes fruit and vegetable intake, in which they either created action or coping implementation intentions, both, or did not create implementation intentions during the goal-setting process to eat fruit and vegetables at specific meals. All groups were asked to record whether they met their goals during the next episode in the game. Parents were sent emails with a newsletter and link to a parent website.  These resources provided parents with information on their child’s weekly goals, suggestions for supporting achievement of fruit and vegetable goals, and ways to overcome common barriers to helping their family make healthy food choices.

To track the effect of the video game on real-life fruit and vegetable consumption at baseline and six months later, researchers completed 24-hour dietary recalls with children over the phone three times, averaging breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner fruit and vegetable intakes. At six months after intervention, improvements in both fruit and vegetable intake were noted for participants.

“By using a serious video game, we saw increases in meal-specific vegetable intake at dinner for thechildren in theAction and Coping groups and fruit intake at breakfast, lunch, and snacks for all intervention groups,” said lead author Karen Cullen, DrPH, RD, USDA/ARS, Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine.

Of the 400 participants, 79% reported meeting all goals during game play. Researchers attributed this partly to the game content, as serious video games are designed to both entertain and promote behavior change. Likewise, getting parents involved with email and newsletters might also have played a role in the increase in fruit and vegetable intake among participants.

Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables among fourth and fifth grade students via serious video game play showed promising results, but more work must be done to ensure children are meeting their recommended intake. The authors of this study suggest replicating these results elsewhere and including qualitative interviews to further validate and understand the progress found in their study.

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Notes for editors
“Meal-Specific Dietary Changes from Squires Quest! II: A Serious Video Game Intervention,” by Karen W. Cullen, DrPH, RD; Yan Liu, MS; Debbe I. Thompson, PhD (doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.02.004), Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 48, Issue 5 (May 2016), published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dipali Pathak, Assistant Director of Communications–Special Projects, Office of Communications, Baylor College of Medicine at +1 713 798 710 or Pathak@bcm.edu.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Karen W. Cullen and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com