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Keywords:

  • Fast food restaurants;
  • food choice;
  • food intake;
  • priming

Summary

Background

Fast food patronage is a frequent reality for many children and their parents. Although there are increasingly healthier alternatives for popular menu items (apple slices instead of French fries), they are infrequently selected.

Objectives

We investigated whether either of two priming tactics – the priming of a role model's food choices or the priming of healthy foods – could influence children to make healthier fast food choices.

Methods

In the priming model condition, 22 children (ranging in age from 6 to 12 years) were presented with 12 photos of 6 admirable and 6 less admirable models and asked, ‘Would this person order apple fries or French fries?’ In the health prime condition, the same children were shown 12 photos of 6 healthy foods and 6 less healthy foods and asked to indicate if each food was healthy or unhealthy.

Results

When children were asked what various admirable people – such as Batman or Spiderman – would eat, 45% chose apple slices over French fries, which was higher than the health prime (P < 0.001) or the control condition (P < 0.001).

Conclusions

Advising a parent to ask their child ‘What would Batman (or another admired character or person) eat?’ might be an easy step to take in what could be a healthier fast food world.