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Appetite. 2017 Oct 1;117:58-66. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.06.011. Epub 2017 Jun 15.

Incentivizing healthy eating in children: An investigation of the "ripple" and "temporal" effects of a reward-based intervention.

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Department of Public Administration, 215 Eggers Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-1020, United States; Center for Policy Research, 426 Eggers Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-1020, United States. Electronic address:


Although previous studies have established the effectiveness of using small reward-based incentives in inducing the choice and consumption of healthier foods among children, little is known about their impact outside of experimental settings or their effectiveness over time when administered daily. This paper presents the results of a field experiment conducted to provide insight on these matters. The study employs a removed treatment within-subject design and was conducted at a summer program catering to low-income children between the ages of 5 and 12. The month long experiment-wherein participants were offered a small prize for choosing a fruit cup for dessert after lunch in lieu of cookies-involved 23 children between the ages of 5 and 8. Corroborating existing studies, the introduction of small reward-based incentives in this context was found to induce large increases in the number of children choosing the healthy dessert options after lunch, but disaggregating the results by week and day suggests that their impact diminished over time. Attempts to ascertain their effect outside of experimental settings did not indicate that the introduction of rewards had any adverse effects, but also did not provide definitive conclusions.


Child behavior; Child nutrition sciences; Food habits; Food preferences; Nutritional intervention

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