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Making Kids’ Food More Appetizing

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Kids adopt their parents’ preferences on many fronts, but when it comes to how food is presented on a plate, children have definite opinions, and these impact what they eat. According to a study published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica (101 [1], 61–66), the nut definitely falls far from the tree when it comes to plating.

Zampollo and colleagues set out to test the degree to which adults and children might demonstrate different preferences for food presentation. Twenty-three preteen children and 46 adults were individually shown full-size photos of 48 different combinations of food on plates. The photos varied, for example, in the number of items displayed, placement of the entrée and organization of the food. Contrary to the default assumption that parents and children share preferences for the ways in which food is presented on plates, the researchers found that “children have notably different preferences than adults. Most remarkably, we show that children tended to prefer seven different items and six different colors on their ideal plates, while adults tended to prefer three different colors and three different items.”

“The assumption that children prefer food presentations that match adult preferences appears to be unjustified,” concluded the researchers. “Future research and interventions that are designed to improve childhood nutrition should test for the impact of diverse presentations on actual food consumption among a variety of populations across institutional settings.”

Sandy Todd Webster

For 22 years, Sandy Todd Webster was the chief architect of IDEA's content program - including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS - the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. She created, launched and nurtured these brands and many others during her productive and purposeful IDEA tenure. Sandy is a Rouxbe-certified professional plant-based cook and a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach who is pursuing a Master's degree in Sustainable Food Systems through The Culinary Institute of America (expected August 2024). She plans to combine these passions with her content expertise to continue inspiring others to make the world a more just, healthy and regenerative place.

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