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Parents’ experiences of introducing toddlers to fruits and vegetables through repeated exposure, with and without prior visual familiarization to foods: Evidence from daily diaries

Houston-Price, Carmel, Owen, Laura H., Kennedy, Orla B., Hill, Claire
Food quality and preference 2019 v.71 pp. 291-300
children, diet, food acceptability, foods, fruits, parents, taste, toddlers, vegetables
While repeated exposure is an established method for inducing food acceptance in young children, little is known about parents’ experiences of repeatedly offering new or disliked foods at home. In this study, parents kept structured diary records during a 15-day period in which they offered their 2-year-old child daily tastes of one fruit and one vegetable. We explored how children’s acceptance of foods (measured in terms of willingness to taste, liking and intake) and the ease and enjoyment of the process for parents changed from the early (days 1–5) to middle (days 6–10) to later (days 11–15) phases of exposure. In addition, we explored whether prior visual familiarization to foods affected children’s behavior and/or parents’ experiences during exposure. Families were randomly assigned to look at a picture book about one to-be-exposed food for the two weeks prior to the exposure phase (‘fruit book’ and ‘vegetable book’ groups) or to a control group, who did not receive a book. Measures obtained from parents’ diary records revealed increases in willingness to taste and intake of vegetables and increased liking of both fruits and vegetables with greater exposure. Prior visual familiarization to vegetables further boosted children’s willingness to taste and liking of vegetables, and the ease and enjoyment of introducing these for parents. Children’s acceptance of foods and parents’ positivity during exposure predicted children’s liking and intake of foods 3 months later. Results confirm the potential for vegetable picture books to support parents in engaging with repeated exposure regimes and in successfully introducing vegetables into toddlers’ diets.