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Sensory-based food education in early childhood education and care, willingness to choose and eat fruit and vegetables, and the moderating role of maternal education and food neophobia

  • Kaisa Kähkönen (a1), Anna Rönkä (a2), Mika Hujo (a3), Arja Lyytikäinen (a4) and Outi Nuutinen (a1)...
Abstract
Objective

To investigate the association between sensory-based food education implemented in early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres and children’s willingness to choose and eat vegetables, berries and fruit, and whether the mother’s education level and children’s food neophobia moderate the linkage.

Design

The cross-sectional study involved six ECEC centres that provide sensory-based food education and three reference centres. A snack buffet containing eleven different vegetables, berries and fruit was used to assess children’s willingness to choose and eat the food items. The children’s parents completed the Food Neophobia Scale questionnaire to assess their children’s food neophobia.

Setting

ECEC centres that provide sensory-based food education and reference ECEC centres in Finland.

Subjects

Children aged 3–5 years in ECEC (n 130) and their parents.

Results

Sensory-based food education was associated with children’s willingness to choose and eat vegetables, berries and fruit. This association was stronger among the children of mothers with a low education level. A high average level of neophobia in the child group reduced the children’s willingness to choose vegetables, berries and fruit. No similar tendency was observed in the group that had received sensory-based food education. Children’s individual food neophobia had a negative association with their willingness to choose and eat the vegetables, berries and fruit.

Conclusions

Child-oriented sensory-based food education seems to provide a promising method for promoting children’s adoption of vegetables, berries and fruit in their diets. In future sensory food education research, more focus should be placed on the effects of the education at the group level.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email kaisa.kahkonen@uef.fi
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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
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