Repeated exposure to food makes children adopt healthy eating habit

DN Bureau

A recent study observed that repeated exposure to food items increases children willingness to adopt the healthy eating habit.

Representational Image
Representational Image

Washington D.C: A recent study observed that repeated exposure to food items increases children willingness to adopt the healthy eating habit. 

According to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, repeated opportunities for children to become familiar with the food without pressure, helped them understand the benefits of healthy eating and increased consumption.

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"Because preschool children rely on other people to provide food, it is important to understand best practices to improve healthy eating. This study shows the value of creating consistent nutrition phrases to use in the home and in child care and healthcare settings during meal time," said lead author Jane Lanigan.

Ninety-eight families were recruited from two early education programs for children 3-6 years old. One centre served snacks, breakfast, and lunch. The second served only snacks and children brought lunch from home. Tomatoes, bell peppers, lentils, and quinoa were introduced during the study.

Children were assigned one of the foods for repeated exposure. Two days per week during the six-week study, trained research assistants operated tasting stations in the classroom.

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Children visited the tasting stations individually and were offered one food to taste. Phrases used included "whole grains help you run fast and jump high," and "fruits and vegetables help keep you from getting sick."

While interacting with the children, the researcher took notes on how the child responded to and commented about the food. 

Children who tried the food were asked to select a face that showed how they thought the food tasted. At the conclusion of the intervention, the foods were provided to the classes as a snack and researchers measured what was eaten by each student.

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Results showed the repeated exposure and the child-centred nutrition phrases in addition to repeated exposure only increased these preschoolers' willingness to try, preference, and consumption of the study food. Those hearing child-centred nutrition phrases consumed twice as much of these foods following the intervention, but their stated liking or willingness to try the food did not increase.

"Mealtime conversations can be a time to encourage food exploration and develop healthy eating behaviours with young children. Both parents and child care providers would benefit from learning and using developmentally appropriate, accurate nutrition messages when introducing a new food," concluded Dr Lanigan. (ANI)

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