Kids can be picky eaters and getting them to like healthy foods can be quite a challenging task. But a new computer game, developed by a group of researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom can help solve your problem.This simple seven-minute brain boosting computer can actually help your kids choose healthier foods over junk eats like candies and other sweets. The game is very easy to understand and play. It involves reacting to images of healthy food by pressing a button, and doing nothing when unhealthy foods are displayed.
According to Lucy Porter from University of Exeter, “The sight of foods like chocolate can activate reward centers in the brain at the same time as reducing activity in self-control areas. Our training encourages people to make a new association – when they see unhealthy food, they stop.”
For the creation of this game and to understand if it can have the desired results, researchers showed several images of healthy and unhealthy foods to more than 200 school-going children between the age of 4 to 11 years. With the images, there was a small picture of a cartoon that depicted – a smile for healthy food and a sad face for unhealthy food. The children, who were unaware of the purpose of the study, were simply asked to hit the space bar when they saw an image of a healthy food and do nothing if an image of an unhealthy food popped up on the computer screen.
They were also engaged in another shopping activity, where they had to choose a number of food items and fill up their carts in one minute. After both the games were over, researchers analysed the results and found that children in the control group – who were shown happy and sad faces mixed evenly between healthy and unhealthy foods, or images which were not food-related at all – showed no change in food choices. But there was an increase from about 30 per cent of foods chosen to over 50 per cent in children who did the brain training.
The researchers conclude that this game is an easy way to incorporate healthy habits in your children and even children as young as four of age can benefit from playing it. The study was published in the journal Appetite. The advancement of technology has its pros and cons, but a simple activity like this can definitely help your tiny tots learn a thing or two about good nutrition. Like all nutritionists and health experts always advice, it is important for kids to understand why certain foods are better and develop a liking for them rather than forcing it down their throat which may make them repulsive.
“You don’t need to trick your kids. You need to reason with them. Don’t mask the goodness of the food by sneaking them or over-styling their meals. Teach them the importance of nutritious food like whole grains and green vegetables. Talk to your frequently to make them understand food and nutrition. Tell them that calcium-rich foods can make them taller or citrus fruits will give them beautiful skin. It is critical to teach kids the right way of eating when they are young,” suggests Celebrity Nutrionist Pooja Makhija as a tip for mums who have to deal with picky eaters.