Special Issue "Determinants of Preference and Consumption of Healthy Food in Children"

A special issue of Foods (ISSN 2304-8158). This special issue belongs to the section "Sensory and Consumer Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Monica Laureati
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences (DEFENS), University of Milan, Via Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy
Interests: sensory and consumer science; food science; children eating behavior; sustainable food systems; food quality

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Food preference is an important driver of food consumption, especially in children for whom the hedonic component is one of the key factors in determining healthy food choice. Establishing healthy dietary behaviors from an early age is crucial, as food preferences acquired during childhood persist into adulthood. A better understanding of children’s food preferences and their determinants may contribute in designing strategies to reduce obesity and malnutrition as well as developing healthy and sustainable food that they like and which meets their expectations. 

In this Special Issue of Foods, we encourage the submission of manuscripts (both original research and review articles) related to the factors that affect children’s food perception, preference and choice, including (but not limited to) genetics, orosensory responsiveness, personality traits, environment, as well as new fields of study such as oral microbiome. Manuscripts focusing on innovations in sensory and consumer science methodologies and approaches tailored to children are very welcome, as well as studies addressing cross-cultural differences in food perception and preference. Manuscripts on eating disorders, clinical samples of the pediatric population, or those not including some form of human measurement or not bringing a novel scientific contribution are not in the scope of this Special Issue. We are confident that the high-quality manuscripts collected in this Special Issue will contribute to deepening and expanding knowledge about food perception mechanisms and the dynamics of preference in children.

Prof. Dr. Monica Laureati
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • young consumer
  • healthy eating
  • food preference
  • food rejection
  • food neophobia
  • chemosensory perception
  • innovative methods
  • school-based interventions
  • cross-cultural studies

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Article
Optimising Repeated Exposure: Determining Optimal Exposure Frequency for Introducing a Novel Vegetable among Children
Foods 2021, 10(5), 913; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10050913 - 21 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 531
Abstract
Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet, but unfortunately many children are not consuming enough to meet the recommendations. Therefore, it is crucial to develop strategies towards increasing the acceptance of this food group. This study aims to investigate the [...] Read more.
Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet, but unfortunately many children are not consuming enough to meet the recommendations. Therefore, it is crucial to develop strategies towards increasing the acceptance of this food group. This study aims to investigate the effect of different repeated exposure frequencies on fruit and vegetable acceptance using a novel vegetable, daikon, among 3–6-year-old children. One hundred and fifty-nine children participated in this study. Eight kindergarten teams were assigned to one of the following groups: Three different intervention groups with varying exposure frequencies, but all receiving seven exposures: Twice a week (n = 47), once a week (n = 32) and once every second week (n = 30), and a control group (n = 50). Liking and familiarity of daikon and other vegetables (cucumber, celery, celeriac, broccoli, cauliflower and beetroot) were assessed at baseline, post-intervention and two follow up sessions (3 and 6 months) to test for potential generalisation effects and observe the longevity of the obtained effects. Intake of daikon was measured at all exposures and test sessions. Results showed significant increases (p ≤ 0.05) in liking and intake of daikon for all three frequencies and the control group. Over the exposures, intake of daikon increased until the 4th exposure for all the groups, where a plateau was reached. No systematic generalisation effects were found. Repeated exposure was a successful approach to increase liking and intake of a novel vegetable with all exposure frequencies to be effective, and no particular exposure frequency can be recommended. Even the few exposures the control group received were found to be sufficient to improve intake and liking over 6 months (p ≤ 0.05), indicating that exposures to low quantities of an unfamiliar vegetable may be sufficient. Full article
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Article
Optimising Repeated Exposure: Determining Optimal Stimulus Shape for Introducing a Novel Vegetable among Children
Foods 2021, 10(5), 909; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10050909 - 21 Apr 2021
Viewed by 454
Abstract
Although it is well evident that a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables could prevent a number of major chronic diseases, national and international guidelines concerning their intake are not being reached by a large percentage of the population, including children. Thus, [...] Read more.
Although it is well evident that a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables could prevent a number of major chronic diseases, national and international guidelines concerning their intake are not being reached by a large percentage of the population, including children. Thus, it is of interest to investigate how the consumption of this food group by children could be increased. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of serving style on the consumption of a raw snack vegetable (daikon) and the influence of its exposure on liking and intake of the vegetable. A group of 185 children 3–5 years old participated in the study. Two kindergartens served as intervention groups, while the third was assigned to be the control group of the study (n = 50). The intervention groups were repeatedly exposed to one of three different serving styles of daikon: sticks (n = 42), triangles (n = 46) or grated (n = 47), and they were all visited 7 times during the exposure period, on the same frequency (twice per week). Familiarity and liking of the target vegetable, daikon, and six other vegetables (cucumber, celery, celeriac, broccoli, cauliflower and beetroot) were measured at baseline, post-intervention and two follow up sessions (3- and 6-month) to investigate the likelihood of generalisation effects. Intake of daikon was measured at all control sessions and exposures. Moreover, children were asked to rank their favourite serving style of daikon and beetroot, among triangle, stick and grated, towards understanding the influence of shape on the efficacy of the exposure. The results revealed significant changes between liking and intake of daikon for the groups of triangles and sticks and the control group (p < 0.05). The group that received grated daikon did not show significant differences in liking and at intake levels during the exposures but performed well in the long-term. Throughout the exposure period, intake levels followed an overall increasing pattern, with all the groups to demonstrate a decrease of their intake at the last session, which was not found significant for the triangle group. Mere exposure was efficient towards increasing liking and intake of the novel vegetable with all the shapes to deliver positive results, but based on this study no particular serving style can be recommended. Full article
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Article
Pediatric Adapted Liking Survey (PALS) with Tailored Nutrition Education Messages: Application to a Middle School Setting
Foods 2021, 10(3), 579; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10030579 - 10 Mar 2021
Viewed by 556
Abstract
We tested the feasibility of a school-based, liking-based behavioral screener (Pediatric Adapted Liking Survey (PALS)) and message program to motivate healthy diet and activity behaviors. Students, recruited from middle- (n = 195) or low-income (n = 310) schools, online-reported: likes/dislikes of [...] Read more.
We tested the feasibility of a school-based, liking-based behavioral screener (Pediatric Adapted Liking Survey (PALS)) and message program to motivate healthy diet and activity behaviors. Students, recruited from middle- (n = 195) or low-income (n = 310) schools, online-reported: likes/dislikes of foods/beverages and physical/sedentary activities, scored into healthy behavior indexes (HBI); perceived food insecurity; and sleep indicators. Students received tailored motivating or reinforcing messages (aligned with behavior change theories) and indicated their willingness to improve target behaviors as well as program feasibility (acceptability; usefulness). Although HBIs averaged lower in the lower versus middle-income school, frequencies of food insecurity were similar (39–44% of students). Students in both schools reported sleep concerns (middle-income school—43% reported insufficient hours of sleep/night; low-income school—55% reported excessive daytime sleepiness). Students across both schools confirmed the PALS acceptability (>85% agreement to answering questions quickly and completion without help) and usefulness (≥73% agreed PALS got them thinking about their behaviors) as well as the tailored message acceptability (≥73% reported the messages as helpful; learning new information; wanting to receive more messages) and usefulness (73% reported “liking” to try one behavioral improvement). Neither message type nor response varied significantly by food insecurity or sleep measures. Thus, this program feasibly delivered students acceptable and useful messages to motivate healthier behaviors and identified areas for school-wide health promotion. Full article
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Article
Mothers’ Perceptions and Attitudes towards Children’s Vegetable Consumption—A Qualitative, Cross-cultural Study of Chilean, Chinese and American Mothers Living in Northern California
Foods 2021, 10(3), 519; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10030519 - 02 Mar 2021
Viewed by 405
Abstract
This exploratory research focused on the cultural variables involved in children’s vegetable consumption, through the analysis of mothers’ perceptions, attitudes, and feeding practices regarding their children’s intake, using qualitative consumer research methods. Twelve focus groups of mothers with children between 2–12 years old [...] Read more.
This exploratory research focused on the cultural variables involved in children’s vegetable consumption, through the analysis of mothers’ perceptions, attitudes, and feeding practices regarding their children’s intake, using qualitative consumer research methods. Twelve focus groups of mothers with children between 2–12 years old (Euro-Americans n = 20, Chinese n = 19, and Chilean n = 19) were conducted. All participants lived in Northern California, had higher education, and incomes that did not limit their vegetable purchase. Intercultural differences in vegetable preferences and consumption habits were found. Mothers across all groups agreed on the importance of children’s vegetable consumption, the influence that mothers have over their children’s vegetable intake, and how challenging it is to get children to eat a variety of vegetables. The ethnic groups differed regarding how they perceived the level of mothers’ responsibility over children’s vegetable intake, the way that mothers defined the amount of vegetables that children should eat, the constraints that mothers had on increasing their children’s vegetable intake and mothers’ recommendations to encourage vegetable consumption. Our study suggests that under similar socio-economic and parental education levels, culture-specific strategies should be considered to foster healthy dietary habits in children. Full article
Article
Digital Media Use in Association with Sensory Taste Preferences in European Children and Adolescents—Results from the I.Family Study
Foods 2021, 10(2), 377; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10020377 - 09 Feb 2021
Viewed by 776
Abstract
Digital media (DM) influences children’s food choice. We aim to investigate associations between DM use and taste preferences (TP) for sweet, fatty, bitter, and salty in European children and adolescents. Individuals aged 6–17 years (N = 7094) providing cross-sectional data for DM use: [...] Read more.
Digital media (DM) influences children’s food choice. We aim to investigate associations between DM use and taste preferences (TP) for sweet, fatty, bitter, and salty in European children and adolescents. Individuals aged 6–17 years (N = 7094) providing cross-sectional data for DM use: television (TV), computer/game console (PC), smartphone and internet, were included. Children (6 to <12 years) and adolescents (≥12 years) completed a Food and Beverage Preference Questionnaire; scores were calculated for sweet, fatty, salty and bitter preference and categorized (high vs. low). Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios as association measures between DM exposure and TP. On average, individuals used media for 2.4 h/day (SD = 1.7). Increasing exposures to DM were associated positively with sweet, fatty and salty TP, while inversely with bitter preference. In female adolescents, DM exposure for >2 h/day was associated with sweet (OR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.02–1.57) and fatty preference (OR = 1.37; 95% CI = 1.10–1.70). Internet exposure was inversely associated with bitter preference, notably in male adolescents (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.50–0.84), but positively associated with salty preference (OR = 1.29, 95% CI = 1.02–1.64). DM exposure was associated with sweet, fatty, salty and bitter TP in children and adolescents, serving as the basis for future longitudinal studies to shed light on the underlying mechanism by which DM exposure may determine eating habits. Full article
Article
Acceptance of a Nordic, Protein-Reduced Diet for Young Children during Complementary Feeding—A Randomized Controlled Trial
Foods 2021, 10(2), 275; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10020275 - 29 Jan 2021
Viewed by 897
Abstract
Early life is critical for developing healthy eating patterns. This study aimed to investigate the effects of a Nordic, protein-reduced complementary diet (ND) compared to a diet following the current Swedish dietary guidelines on eating patterns and food acceptance. At 4–6 months (mo) [...] Read more.
Early life is critical for developing healthy eating patterns. This study aimed to investigate the effects of a Nordic, protein-reduced complementary diet (ND) compared to a diet following the current Swedish dietary guidelines on eating patterns and food acceptance. At 4–6 months (mo) of age infants were randomized to a Nordic group (NG, n = 41) or a Conventional group (CG, n = 40), and followed until 18 mo of age. Daily intake of fruits and vegetables (mean ± sd) at 12 mo was significantly higher in the NG compared to the CG: 341 ± 108 g/day vs. 220 ± 76 g/day (p < 0.001), respectively. From 12 to 18 mo, fruit and vegetable intake decreased, but the NG still consumed 32% more compared to the CG: 254 ± 99 g/day vs. 193 ± 67 g/day (p = 0.004). To assess food acceptance, both groups were tested with home exposure meals at 12 and 18 mo. No group differences in acceptance were found. We find that a ND with parental education initiates healthy eating patterns during infancy, but that the exposure meal used in the present study was insufficient to detect major differences in food acceptance. This is most likely explained by the preparation of the meal. Nordic produce offers high environmental sustainability and favorable taste composition to establish healthy food preferences during this sensitive period of early life. Full article
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Article
Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Preferences Are Associated with Their Mothers’ and Fathers’ Preferences
Foods 2021, 10(2), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10020261 - 27 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 973
Abstract
Children’s preference for fruit and vegetables must emerge during childhood. At children’s homes, mothers and fathers influence children’s developing food preferences with their own preferences and actions. The purpose of the study was to reveal the association parents have with their children’s fruit [...] Read more.
Children’s preference for fruit and vegetables must emerge during childhood. At children’s homes, mothers and fathers influence children’s developing food preferences with their own preferences and actions. The purpose of the study was to reveal the association parents have with their children’s fruit and vegetable preferences. The study was conducted in a sample of Finnish mothers and fathers of 3–5-year-old children. The participants were recruited, and questionnaires distributed through early childhood education and care centers in 2014 and 2015. The results showed considerable variance in the children’s preferences, and were more similar with their father’s, than their mother’s preference. There was an association between mother’s and children’s preference for “strong-tasting vegetables and berries“ (p = 0.005), “sweet-tasting fruit“ (p < 0.001) and “common vegetables“ (p = 0.037). Fathers preferences associated with children’s preferences for “strong-tasting vegetables and berries“ (p = 0.003). Food neophobia decreased children’s “strong-tasting vegetables and berries“ (p < 0.001) and “sweet-tasting fruit“ (p < 0.001) preferences. The father’s more relaxed attitude towards eating decreased children’s preferences for “strong-tasting vegetables and berries“ (p = 0.031) and “sweet-tasting fruit“ (p = 0.003). These findings indicate a need for more targeted strategies for increasing children’s preferences for fruit and vegetables and highlight the importance of taking both parents equally into account. Full article
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Article
Yuck, This Biscuit Looks Lumpy! Neophobic Levels and Cultural Differences Drive Children’s Check-All-That-Apply (CATA) Descriptions and Preferences for High-Fibre Biscuits
Foods 2021, 10(1), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10010021 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 787
Abstract
Food neophobia influences food choice in school-aged children. However, little is known about how children with different degrees of food neophobia perceive food and to what extent different sensory attributes drive their liking. This paper explores liking and sensory perception of fibre-rich biscuits [...] Read more.
Food neophobia influences food choice in school-aged children. However, little is known about how children with different degrees of food neophobia perceive food and to what extent different sensory attributes drive their liking. This paper explores liking and sensory perception of fibre-rich biscuits in school-aged children (n = 509, age 9–12 years) with different degrees of food neophobia and from five different European countries (Finland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom). Children tasted and rated their liking of eight commercial biscuits and performed a Check-All-That-Apply task to describe the samples and further completed a Food Neophobia Scale. Children with a higher degree of neophobia displayed a lower liking for all tasted biscuits (p < 0.001). Cross-cultural differences in liking also appeared (p < 0.001). A negative correlation was found between degree of neophobia and the number of CATA-terms used to describe the samples (r = −0.116, p = 0.009). Penalty analysis showed that degree of food neophobia also affected drivers of biscuit liking, where particularly appearance terms were drivers of disliking for neophobic children. Cross-cultural differences in drivers of liking and disliking were particularly salient for texture attributes. Further research should explore if optimizing appearance attributes could be a way to increase liking of fibre-rich foods in neophobic children. Full article
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Article
Assessment of Lingual Tactile Sensitivity in Children and Adults: Methodological Suitability and Challenges
Foods 2020, 9(11), 1594; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9111594 - 03 Nov 2020
Viewed by 728
Abstract
Few methodological approaches have been developed to measure lingual tactile sensitivity, and little information exists about the comparison between children and adults. The aims of the study were to: verify the cognitive and perceptive suitability of Von Frey filaments and a gratings orientation [...] Read more.
Few methodological approaches have been developed to measure lingual tactile sensitivity, and little information exists about the comparison between children and adults. The aims of the study were to: verify the cognitive and perceptive suitability of Von Frey filaments and a gratings orientation test in children of different ages; compare lingual tactile sensitivity between children and adults; investigate the relationships between lingual tactile sensitivity, preference and consumption of foods with different textures and level of food neophobia. One hundred and forty-seven children aged 6–13 years and their parents participated in the study, in addition to a separate sample of seventy adults. Participants filled in questionnaires, and lingual tactile sensitivity was evaluated through filaments and gratings. Results showed that gratings evaluation was more difficult than filaments assessment but enabled a better separation of participants according to their performance than filaments. R-indices from filaments were not correlated with those of gratings, suggesting that the tools measure different dimensions of lingual tactile sensitivity. No differences were found in lingual tactile sensitivity between children and adults, nor between children of different ages. Food neophobia was negatively associated with preferences of hard foods in children. Although a multifactor analysis concluded that neither texture preferences nor food consumption were strongly correlated with lingual tactile sensitivity, there was a weak but significant positive correlation between lingual tactile sensitivity to the finest Von Frey filament and food neophobia in the youngest age group, indicating that children with higher levels of food neophobia are more sensitive to oral tactile stimuli. Suitable child-friendly adaptations for the assessment of lingual sensitivity in children are discussed. Full article
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Article
Investigating the Relationships between Basic Tastes Sensitivities, Fattiness Sensitivity, and Food Liking in 11-Year-Old Children
Foods 2020, 9(9), 1315; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9091315 - 18 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 944
Abstract
This study investigates the relationships between basic tastes and fattiness sensitivity and food liking in 11-year-old children. The basic taste sensitivity of 106 children was measured using different methods, namely detection (DT) and recognition (RT) thresholds, and taste responsiveness. Caffeine and quinine (bitter), [...] Read more.
This study investigates the relationships between basic tastes and fattiness sensitivity and food liking in 11-year-old children. The basic taste sensitivity of 106 children was measured using different methods, namely detection (DT) and recognition (RT) thresholds, and taste responsiveness. Caffeine and quinine (bitter), sucrose (sweet), citric acid (sour), sodium chloride (salty), and monosodium glutamate (umami) were investigated for DT and RT at five concentrations in water solutions. In addition, taste responsiveness and liking were collected for the high-intensity concentrations. PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil) responsiveness was tested on paper strips. Fattiness sensitivity was measured by a paired comparison method using milk samples with varying fat content. Liking for 30 food items was recorded using a food-list questionnaire. The test was completed in a gamified “taste detective” approach. The results show that DT correlates with RT for all tastes while responsiveness to PROP correlates with overall taste responsiveness. Caffeine and quinine differ in bitterness responsiveness and liking. Girls have significantly lower DTs than boys for bitterness and sweetness. Food liking is driven by taste and fattiness properties, while fatty food liking is significantly influenced by fattiness sensitivity. These results contribute to a better holistic understanding of taste and fattiness sensitivity in connection to food liking in preadolescents. Full article
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Article
The Meaning of Emoji to Describe Food Experiences in Pre-Adolescents
Foods 2020, 9(9), 1307; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9091307 - 16 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1689
Abstract
Ongoing research has shown that emoji can be used by children to discriminate food products, but it is unclear if they express emotions and how they are linked to emotional words. Little is known about how children interpret emoji in terms of their [...] Read more.
Ongoing research has shown that emoji can be used by children to discriminate food products, but it is unclear if they express emotions and how they are linked to emotional words. Little is known about how children interpret emoji in terms of their emotional meaning in the context of food. This study aimed at investigating the emotional meaning of emoji used to describe food experiences in 9–13-year-old pre-adolescents and to measure related age and gender differences. The meaning of 46 emoji used to describe food experience was explored by: mapping emoji according to similarities and differences in their emotional meaning using the projective mapping technique, and linking emoji with emotion words using a check-all-that-apply (CATA) format. The two tasks gave consistent results and showed that emoji were discriminated along the valence (positive vs. negative) and power (dominant vs. submissive) dimension, and to a lower extent along the arousal dimension (high vs. low activation). In general, negative emoji had more distinct meanings than positive emoji in both studies, but differences in nuances of meaning were found also among positive emoji. Girls and older pre-adolescents (12–13 years old (y.o.)) discriminated positive emoji slightly better than boys and younger pre-adolescents (9–11 y.o.). This suggests that girls and older pre-adolescents may be higher in emotional granularity (the ability to experience and discriminate emotions), particularly of positive emotions. The results of the present work can be used for the development of an emoji-based tool to measure emotions elicited by foods in pre-adolescents. Full article
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