Multimedia Game Helps Kids Eat Better
August 6, 2004
A computer game developed by behavioral nutrition researchers
helps elementary school students consume more fruits and vegetables. The
scientists are based at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas. CNRC is operated
by Baylor College of Medicine, in cooperation
with Texas Children's
Hospital and the Agricultural Research
Service, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
The game is called "Squire's Quest," and students who played it
soon began eating an extra serving of fruit a day, according to Tom Baranowski,
the study's lead scientist and a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of
In the game, the "Kingdom of 5ALot" is invaded by snakes and
moles attempting to destroy the fruit and vegetable crops. The king and queen
enlist the help of student "squires," who face challenges related to drinking
more juices, and eating more fruits and vegetables. The squires gain points by
preparing recipes in a virtual kitchen using these foods.
At the end of the session, the students set a goal of either
making that recipe at home, eating another serving of fruit, juice or vegetable
at a meal or snack, or asking for a favorite fruit, juice or vegetable to be
more available at home. In the next session of the game, the student is
rewarded with additional points if the goal was met.
The study involved 1,578 fourth-graders in the Houston
Independent School District. They were divided into a participating group and a
control group. Four days of dietary intake were assessed before and after the
start of the 10-session game.
The computer game resulted in a one-serving increase in players'
fruit and vegetable consumption in only five weeks, according to Baranowski.
Other educational programs can take up to two years to achieve their goals.
People who consume more fruits, juices and vegetables have
greater longevity and some level of protection from heart disease, diabetes and
certain types of cancer.
The results of the study were published in the American Journal
of Preventive Medicine.
about the research in this month's issue of Agricultural Research