Children understand as well as adults what is good for them, but it is still necessary to explain and teach them. Repeated exposure to healthy foods associated with the use of consistent nutritional phrases with children promotes the adoption of a healthy eating habit.
Consistent Nutrition Phrases
Early childhood is a good time to learn to love flavors and adopt healthy eating habits. Despite this, it has been found that in the United States, many children in preschools do not meet dietary recommendations. The results of a study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior reveal that it is possible to make children understand the benefits of healthy eating and to change the way they eat by allowing them to be familiarized frequently with these food without pressure.
According to Jane Lanigan, PhD, Department of Human Development, Washington State University Vancouver, children still in preschool age still rely on other people to provide them with food, so a better understanding of practices is needed to improve intake. a healthy diet. Beyond this repeated exposure, the researcher within the framework of the study, shows the interest of the use of coherent and all-purpose nutritional phrases, which can be used at home, at daycare as well as in establishments. care during meals.
Experiment carried out on children from 3 to 6 years old
The experiment covers 98 middle-income families whose parents had completed higher education. The population was made up of children aged 3 to 6 from two preschool education programs. The first center participated in the Food Assistance Program for children and adults and served snacks, lunches and lunches.
The second only served snacks and the children brought lunch from home. During the study, tomatoes, peppers, lentils and quinoa were introduced during meals. Children received one of the foods with repeated exposure, another food associated with child-centered nutrition phrases plus repeated exposure, and two other foods received without any intervention.
Two days a week, a team of researchers set up tasting stations in the classroom for the six weeks of the study. Individually, the children visited these stations and were invited to taste a food item. In addition to repeated food exposure, child-centered nutrition phrases like “Whole grains help you run fast and jump high” or “Fruits and vegetables help you stay sick” were introduced. in conversations with the children during the experience.
When contacting the children, the researchers took note of their reactions and comments to each food. After the tasting, the children expressed their appreciation of the taste of the food through pictures. At the end of each intervention, all food was provided to the class as a snack, and the researchers continued to observe and measure what each student ate.
Effectiveness of Repeated Exposure and Nutrition Phrases
Over the six weeks of the study, researchers were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of repeated exposure and child-centered nutrition phrases on children’s willingness to try, prefer and consume a food. After the conversations containing the nutritional phrases, it was found that the child consumed twice as much of the food in question, regardless of his taste for it.
Faced with this finding, Dresse Jane Lanigan believes there is nothing like mealtime conversations to foster food exploration and encourage the development of healthy eating behavior in pre-school children. school. She encourages parents and anyone providing child care to use consistent, developmentally appropriate nutrition phrases when introducing new foods. This habit makes it possible effectively to sensitize the child to adopt a healthy eating behavior.
Lanigan J: Child-Centered Nutrition Phrases Plus Repeated Exposure Increase Preschoolers’ Consumption of Healthful Foods, but Not Liking or Willingness to Try. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB).