Is repeated exposure the holy grail for increasing children’s vegetable intake? Lessons learned from a Dutch childcare intervention using various vegetable preparations.
Sommaire de l'article
Children's failure to eat enough vegetables highlights the need for effective interventions encouraging this behaviour. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of repeated exposure to three a priori unfamiliar vegetables, each prepared in two ways, on children's vegetable acceptance in a childcare setting. Two hundred fifty children (mean age 25 months; 57% boys) participated in a pre-test and a post-test, where they were offered pumpkin, courgette, and white radish. The intervention group (N = 125) participated in a 5-month exposure period, where they were exposed repeatedly (∼12x) to the vegetables: pumpkin blanched and as a cracker spread; courgette blanched and as soup; white radish raw and as a cracker spread. The control group (N = 125) maintained their normal routine. Mixed model analyses were used to analyse intake data and Chi-square analyses for willingness to taste. At pre-test, children ate about 20 g of pumpkin and courgette, whereas white radish intake was approximately 10 g. There was a significant positive effect of the intervention for pumpkin (+15 g; p < 0.001) and white radish (+16 g; p = 0.01). Results for willingness to taste were in the same direction. There was no repeated exposure effect for courgette (p = 0.54); this may have been due to its less distinct taste profile or familiarity with boiled courgette. From our findings, we conclude that repeated exposure to multiple unfamiliar vegetable tastes within the daily routine of a childcare setting is effective in improving children's willingness to taste and intake of some of these vegetables. However, repeated exposure may not be sufficient for more familiar or blander tasting vegetables. This implies that one size does not fit all and that additional strategies are needed to increase children's intake of these vegetables.