Traditional intervention approaches to promote fruit and vegetable consumption outline the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables. More recently, social norm-based messages describing the healthy eating habits of others have been shown to increase fruit and vegetable intake in adults. Here we report two experimental studies which investigated whether exposure to descriptive social norm-based messages about the behaviour of other children and health-based messages increased fruit and vegetable intake in young children. In both studies children were exposed to messages whilst playing a board-game. After exposure to the messages, children were able to consume fruit and vegetables, as well as high calorie snack foods. Although findings were inconsistent across the two individual studies, in a pooled analysis we found evidence that both health messages and descriptive social norm-based messages increased children's fruit and vegetable intake, relative to control condition messages (< .05). Whether descriptive social norm-based messages can be used to promote meaningful changes to children's dietary behaviour warrants further study.
Sharps, M., & Robinson, E. (2016). Encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables: Health vs. descriptive social norm-based messages. Appetite, 100, 18–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.031