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Modifying children's food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable

Abstract

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate two interventions (one reward-based and one exposure-based) for increasing children's acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable compared with a no-treatment control. It was predicted that the exposure condition would increase liking for, and consumption of, the vegetable relative to either the reward or control group.

Design: Using a randomized controlled design, participants were assigned to one of two intervention groups (exposure or reward) or to a no-treatment control condition, for a 2 week period. Liking for, and consumption of, red pepper was assessed before and after the treatment period.

Setting: The study was conducted in three primary schools in London.

Subjects: Parental consent was obtained for 49 out of a possible 72 children.

Interventions: Interventions comprised eight daily sessions during which participants in the exposure group were offered a taste of sweet red pepper and told that they could eat as much as they liked. Participants in the reward group were shown a sheet of cartoon stickers and told that they could choose one of them on condition that they ate at least one piece of the pepper.

Results: The exposure-based intervention significantly increased both liking (P=0.006) and consumption (P=0.03) compared with the control group. The outcome of the reward intervention was intermediate and did not differ significantly from the exposure or control conditions.

Conclusions: Repeated exposure to the taste of unfamiliar foods is a promising strategy for promoting liking of previously rejected foods in children.

Sponsorship: This study was financed by Cancer Research UK.

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Wardle, J., Herrera, ML., Cooke, L. et al. Modifying children's food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 341–348 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601541

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601541

Keywords

  • children
  • food acceptance
  • exposure
  • reward
  • vegetables

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