Background: As the snacking pattern of European adolescents is of great concern, effective interventions are necessary. Till now health promotion efforts in children and adolescents have had only limited success in changing adolescents' eating patterns and anthropometrics. Therefore, the present study proposes an innovative approach to influence dietary behaviors in youth based on new insights on effective behavior change strategies and attractive intervention channels to engage adolescents. This article describes the rationale, the development, and evaluation design of the 'Snack Track School' app. The aim of the app is to improve the snacking patterns of Flemish 14- to 16-year olds.
Methods: The development of the app was informed by the systematic, stepwise, iterative, and collaborative principles of the Intervention Mapping protocol. A four week mHealth intervention was developed based on the dual-system model with behavioral change strategies targeting both the reflective (i.e., active learning, advance organizers, mere exposure, goal-setting, monitoring, and feedback) and automatic processes (i.e., rewards and positive reinforcement). This intervention will be evaluated via a controlled pre-post design in Flemish schools among 1400 adolescents.
Discussion: When this intervention including strategies focused on both the reflective and automatic pathway proves to be effective, it will offer a new scientifically-based vision, guidelines and practical tools for public health and health promotion (i.e., incorporation of learning theories in intervention programs).
Trial registration: NCT02622165 registrated November 15, 2015 on clinicaltrials.gov.
Keywords: Adolescents; App; Conditioning; Diet; Dual-system model; Intervention; Learning theories; Nutrition; Obesity; Overweight; Snacks; mHealth.