Video Game May Improve
Kids Eating Habits
By Marcia Wood
February 15, 2000
A fun, fast-paced video game called
"Squire's Quest!" might entice kids to eat more fruits and
vegetables, according to the scientists who are creating and testing it.
Researchers at the Children's Nutrition
Research Center in Houston, Texas, are trying out the action-packed
computer game with 1,600 children in Houston elementary schools. The Nutrition
Center is operated jointly by ARS,
Baylor College of Medicine, and
Texas Children's Hospital.
ARS is the chief research agency of USDA.
Kids in the United States only eat about two to three-and-one-half servings
of fruits and vegetables a day, instead of the five servings essential for
optimal physical and mental growth and development, according to Tom
Baranowski. A professor of behavioral nutrition at the research center and
Baylor's Department of Pediatrics,
Baranowski leads the team that is developing and testing the video game as part
of an innovative new nutrition-education program.
Each child playing the video games starts as a squire and enters into
training to become a knight. Knights help to protect an imaginary kingdom,
called "Five-A-Lot," from invaders bent on destroying its fruits and
vegetables. As squires earn points towards various levels of knighthood, they
learn about fruits, 100-percent fruit juices, and veggies. The video game is
part of a series of ten, 25-minute-long classroom sessions in which kids make
tasty virtual recipes using fruits and veggies. Then they set personal goals
for making those recipes at home, and for eating at least one more serving of a
fruit or vegetable at a specific meal or snack.
Baranowski developed the video game and kid-friendly, behavior-change
curriculum in collaboration with Baylor assistant professors Janice Baranowski
and Karen Cullen, along with health educator Lauren Honess Morreale and
freelance writer Brenda Congdon. The scientists expect to finish analyzing the
results of their education experiment by the end of summer 2000.
Scientific contact: Tom Baranowski, ARS
Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, Texas, phone (713) 798-6762, fax
(713) 798-7098, firstname.lastname@example.org.