PURPOSE: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in urban youth. Poverty is known to be the single most reliable predictor of obesity in the United States. Yet, food awareness is another major covariate with obesity. Consequently, we designed a game to inform urban youth about the nutritional content of common food items. The game incorporated over 8000 food items and 53 macro- and micronutrients from the NDL/FNIC SR-25 Abridged Nutritional Facts database. It was predicted that students who played the game were more likely to score higher on a post-game assessment of nutrition than students who were merely told to memorize the content.
METHODS: Participants were recruited from the York College Research Pool, which is composed mainly of 18-year-old freshmen. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to play the game, which offered feedback, a reward/punishment system, and competition. The remaining participants were given a text-based lesson on nutrition that included the same information as the experimental condition, but without game mechanics. In the game, subjects were asked to respond to challenges by preparing meals using the ingredients from the NDL/FNIC database. Challenges placed an emphasis on certain macronutrients to draw the students' attention to the relationship between the food (e.g., "fish") and the macronutrient (e.g., "protein"). Subjects participated in a post-experiment quiz, where they estimated five macronutrient values (lipids, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein) for 20 randomly selected foods from the database.