Food and Behaviour Research

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Increasing children's acceptance of vegetables; a randomized trial of parent-led exposure

Wardle, J., Cooke, L.J., Gibson, E.L., Sapochnik, M., Sheiham, A., Lawson, M. (2003) Appetite 40(2) 155-62. 

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Despite considerable epidemiological evidence of the health benefits of a diet high in fruit and vegetables, consumption in pre-school children remains well below recommended levels.

This study evaluated the effectiveness of an exposure-based intervention, carried out by parents in the home, in increasing children's liking for a previously disliked vegetable.

156 parents of 2-6 year old children were randomly assigned to Exposure, Information or Control groups after a pre-intervention taste test at which a 'target' vegetable was selected. Parents in the Exposure group gave their child a taste of this vegetable daily for 14 days, parents in the Information group were given nutritional advice and a leaflet, and parents in the Control group received no further intervention. All participants took part in a post-intervention taste test.

Greater increases in liking, ranking and consumption of the 'target' vegetable from pre- to post-intervention occurred in the Exposure group than in either of the other two groups. Only the Exposure group showed significant increases across all three outcomes.

It can be concluded that a parent-led, exposure-based intervention involving daily tasting of a vegetable holds promise for improving children's acceptance of vegetables. These findings suggest a parental advice strategy which could be disseminated directly to parents or by health professionals.