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Study Shows Cartoon Characters Change How Your Kids Taste Cereal

The power of the cartoon

It’s no surprise that Cap’n Crunch or the Trix rabbit attract your child to unhealthy cereal.

Who hasn’t witnessed a child’s meltdown in the cereal aisle because he wants the box with the prize inside or the cool cartoon character?

Now, a new report shows the characters can actually influence your kid’s perception of taste.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communications developed four make-believe cereal boxes two marked “Healthy Bits,” and two marked “Sugar Bits.”

One box of Healthy Bits and one box of Sugar Bits each featured the penguins from the movie “Happy Feet,” and children were asked to try the cereals.

Children liked the cereal with the character on the box even though the cereals were the same. However if there was no character on the box, children who saw the ‘healthy’ on the label liked it more than the sugary one.

Study author, Sarah Vaala, a doctoral candidate at Penn says the results are a double-edged sword. Children can overlook a cereal being “healthy” if the marketing is done correctly. “Friendly characters on the box was enough to override that judgment of the health merits of the food,” she said.

Unfortunately, cereal manufacturers don’t seem to be interested in marketing healthy cereals to children. You don’t see Lucky The Leprachaun hawking Cheerios or Tony The Tiger shilling Corn Flakes. Until then, it doesn’t matter what studies show. Your child will tantrum for the cartoon cereal loaded with sugar every time.

Unless of course, you only keep healthy cereal in your home. As Strollerderby reported last year in Breakfast Cereal: If It’s Not Sweet Kids Will Still Eat, kids will find a cereal they like if you present three healthy options. Just remember, Crunchberries Are Not Real Fruit!

If all else fails, you could always pull a Roseanne Conner and put the healthy cereal in the sugary box with the cartoon character on it. Then you’re in business.

You can read more about the study on CNN.com

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