A systematic evaluation of digital nutrition promotion websites and apps for supporting parents to influence children's nutrition

Dorota Zarnowiecki, Chelsea E. Mauch, Georgia Middleton, Louisa Matwiejczyk, Wendy L. Watson, Jane Dibbs, Anita Dessaix, Rebecca K. Golley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
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Globally children’s diet quality is poor. Parents are primary gatekeepers to children’s food intake; however, reaching and engaging parents in nutrition promotion can be challenging. With growth in internet and smartphone use, digital platforms provide potential to disseminate information rapidly to many people. The objectives of this review were to conduct a comprehensive and systematic evaluation of nutrition promotion via websites and apps supporting parents to influence children’s nutrition, from three different perspectives: 1) current evidence base, 2) end user (parent) experience and 3) current commercial offerings.

Three systematic reviews were undertaken of (1) studies evaluating the effectiveness for digital platforms for improving nutrition in children and parents, (2) studies conducting user-testing of digital tools with parents, (3) websites and apps providing lunch-provision information to parents. Searches were conducted in five databases for reviews one and two, and systematic search of Google and App Store for review three. Randomised controlled trials, cohort and cross-sectional and qualitative studies (study two only) were included if published in English, from 2013, with the intervention targeted at parents and at least 50% of intervention content focused on nutrition. Search results were double screened, with data extracted into standardised spreadsheets and quality appraisal of included search results.

Studies evaluating digital nutrition interventions targeting parents (n = 11) demonstrated effectiveness for improving nutrition outcomes, self-efficacy and knowledge. Six of the included randomised controlled trials reported digital interventions to be equal to, or better than comparison groups. User-testing studies (n = 9) identified that digital platforms should include both informative content and interactive features. Parents wanted evidence-based information from credible sources, practical tools, engaging content and connection with other users and health professionals. Websites targeting lunch provision (n = 15) were developed primarily by credible sources and included information-based content consistent with dietary guidelines and limited interactive features. Lunchbox apps (n = 6), developed mostly by commercial organisations, were more interactive but provided less credible information.

Digital nutrition promotion interventions targeting parents can be effective for improving nutrition-related outcomes in children and parents. As demonstrated from the lunchbox context and user-testing with parents, they need to go beyond just providing information about positive dietary changes, to include the user-desired features supporting interactivity and personalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • Child food intake
  • Digital
  • eHealth
  • Lunchbox
  • mHealth
  • Mobile applications
  • Nutrition
  • Parents
  • Website


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