Using psychology to get kids to eat their veggies

Most of us have heard the parental warning “don’t play with your food.” But some research being done at Utah State University is actually encouraging kids to do just that as a goal of eating healthier on a regular basis. Gregory Madden, a professor of psychology at USU, is part of a team working on a project known as FIT.

On <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>KVNU’s For the People program</a>, he explained that children are served healthy food that unfortunately gets thrown out. So a game was designed to grab their interest and increase their taking in more vegetables on a daily basis.

“So the way that the game works is if the kids eat a requisite amount of vegetables that they’re served each day, and all the kids work together on the same team. That school plays as a team. So if they meet their daily vegetable eating goal then they get to advance through the game,” Professor Madden explained.

“In the game they help these characters through a science fiction adventure where they have to find these bad guys and develop skills to overcome the tricks and riddles and things like that the bad guys throw in their way,” he continued. “Then eventually the kids continue to consume vegetables on a daily basis over the course of a semester. Then they finally catch these bad guys, and in the end, win the game.”

The USU team has introduced this program in five local schools and in two cases where the game has been fine-tuned, they have doubled the amount of veggies that kids are eating.

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