Though playing video games is often considered unhealthy due to prolonged inactivity when playing, it  appears that a couple of games may actually improve kids’ nutritional choices.  A study showed that the health-oriented games “Escape from Diab” and “Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space” influenced preteens to increase their fruit and vegetable intake by 0.67 servings per day.

“This is the Town of Diab, you can eat all the junk food you want, in Diab you never have to exercise. Sound like a dream? It’s not…. it’s up to you to help our hero’s defeat the tyrannical King Eaties and Escape from Diab.” Everywhere in Diab there are vending machines offering junk food, and the goal is to find the healthy food to help the heros defeat the king that is threatening to destroy the town.  Meanwhile, “Nanoswarm” takes place 20 years in the future when the world’s population mysteriously falls ill.  It is up to the player to learn the tricks of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to restore the health of the human race.

While 10- to 12-year-old kids were observed playing a variety of diet-minded Internet games, only nutritional learning games like “Diab” and “Nanoswarm” made an impact on their choices after playtime was complete.  Their influence is likely due to the games’ complexity and engaging nature.  Going beyond a basic calorie quiz, theses “edu-tainment” video games rely upon action and suspense-driven storylines that are commonplace in other popular video games.  These games strike a balance between being fun and conveying nutritional messages, with more than 80 percent of the kids stating they enjoyed playing the games.

Despite their success in increasing fruit and veggie consumption, the video games can hardly be considered a cure-all for the growing childhood obesity epidemic.  For example, although “Diab” and “Nanoswarm” advocated exercise and water consumption, the kids did not show significant improvements in increasing water consumption.

If eliminating video games from your kids’ lives seems like a losing battle, steering them toward games that help them to become produce eaters could be a worthwhile compromise.