Effective interventions to increase fruit and vegetables consumption in children
While the health benefits of fruit and vegetables are well-known for children, their intake remains insufficient among this population. A growing number of interventions are designed to promote their intake as this stage of life may be an optimal time for dietary interventions. Numerous reviews and scientific studies assessed the impact of those interventions and initiatives on children in various settings.
The Global Fruit and Veg Newsletter of this month presents three articles to determine interventions and initiatives that could effectively increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children.
The first review has examined which strategies have shown a positive impact on fruit and vegetables intake and nutrition knowledge in children aged between 4-12 years old. According to this work, providing fruit and vegetables in school is the most effective strategy to increase fruit intake in children, whereas online games and activities (for example, challenges to eat more fruit and vegetables, virtual cooking sessions…) could increase vegetable intake. Yet, this review confirms a generally observed result : implementing multiple interventions simultaneously is more effective than individual strategies alone.
The second review systematically identified published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating childcare- or preschool-based interventions designed to increase objectively measured intake of fruit, vegetables, or both in US preschool children (aged 2-5 years). The most consistent evidence observed is that inclusion of nutrition education components, if interactive, was consistently effective at improving fruit and vegetables intake, while manipulating the feeding environment without directly educating children, produced inconsistent results.
The third article determined the associations between family socio-economic status and children’s fruit and vegetables consumption wether it was mediated by parental role-modeling and food availability. The results showed that parental educational level is a stronger predictor of children’s fruit and vegetables consumption than relative family income in Finland. This association was mediated by parental role modelling, higher availability of fruit and vegetables and lower availability of sugary food and drink.
These three articles show that there is a wide range of interventions proposed to promote fruit and vegetables among children, the effectiveness of which varies according to several factors, including age group, food environment and parental feeding practices. They emphasize that there is no single approach to ahcieve higher F&V but rather several strategies which shouldbe adapted to local situations.
Sophie Nicklaus is Director of Research 1st class at INRAE, at the Centre for Taste and Feeding behavior (Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l’Alimentation) in Dijon, France. Since 2017, she has been leading the team “Determinants of eating behaviour across the life course, relationships with health” at this center. She is particularly interested in the impact of early food experiences on later eating behaviour and their contribution to health. She has published over 110 original articles and 21 reviews in international peer-reviewed journals; 22 book chapters; 1 edited book and a book for the public on these topics. She is currently collaborating with public health authorities in France to develop and evaluate updated recommendations on infant feeding.